Manchester United have another Zlatan Ibrahimovic ahead of Villarreal tie


At Manchester United, Edinson Cavani is shaping up to be another Zlatan Ibrahimovic. We’re talking about the striker who fell down the pecking order after the arrival of a big name No 9 back in 2017, rather than the one who blitzed Old Trafford the previous year. Sound familiar?

It was quite a summer over at the Theatre of Dreams.

After losing last season’s Europa League final to Villarreal, it forced both Solskjaer and the club’s controversial owners, the Glazers, into strengthening the squad.

After Tom Heaton returned to provide competition for David De Gea and Dean Henderson, United then concluded a deal for Jadon Sancho.

Following that investment, Raphael Varane touched down from Real Madrid.

And then, late on, Cristiano Ronaldo returned to the club in a move that many supporters had been dreaming of for years.

Ronaldo’s return has been proven right so far. With four goals in four games, he’s delivered on his end of the bargain.

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But with Cavani now stripped of the No 7 shirt, and struggling to settle his new role within Solskjaer’s squad, an exit could be on the cards this January.

El Grafico in Argentina have claimed the forward is on the radar of Barcelona, who could unite him alongside fellow South American Sergio Aguero in attack.

And, at present, it looks like Cavani is set to become another Ibrahimovic. A veteran forward of the highest calibre, now surplus to requirements.

In 2016, when United signed the Sweden international, it was clear he was going to be Jose Mourinho’s main man.

And, like Cavani, he enjoyed a fine debut campaign at Old Trafford.

Cavani notched 17 times across all competitions last term but Ibrahimovic bettered that tally, hitting 28 goals before injury cruelly struck.

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Injury is also what has kept Cavani on the sidelines during the early embers of the campaign, as well as Ronaldo himself.

But Ibrahimovic, when he returned to full fitness, found Romelu Lukaku blocking his path to Mourinho’s starting XI.

He made just seven appearances while playing second fiddle to the Belgian, something that may be behind their modern-day rivalry.

And, in the end, United decided it was better to offload him to LA Galaxy rather than keeping him around to warm the bench.

Cavani, now, could go the same way.

The South American is, like Ibrahimovic, one of the greats. A truly deadly striker on his day, when fully firing.

But, now, he’s behind Ronaldo in the pecking order. And like with his former PSG team-mate and Lukaku, that’s not going to change.

Solskjaer has, for his part, insisted the pair can play together.

“It’s exciting to see them two together,” he said recently.

“I’m sure that’ll be a good partnership as well, [two players] wanting to be on the end of things.

“We’ve seen some teams dropping deeper against us, not giving us as much space in behind and that’s definitely two boys you’d like to have around the goal when that’s the scenario.

“I can see them two working well together.”

But Mourinho said the same sort of thing and, like Solskjaer, played with just one out and out striker.

“I am excited because I have more options, I am excited because the team can be better, I am excited because I want to have players available,” he said.

“I don’t want to make a situation of Zlatan and Romelu because it can be Zlatan and Romelu, it can be just Zlatan, it can be just Romelu or it can be just no one. I want options and I have more options now in attack.

“He (Ibrahimovic) can play everywhere, and this season we played so many times with two strikers. Especially when we played three at the back and the wing backs, we brought the second man to the centre so we can do it, we are ready to do it and we prepare ourselves since pre-season (to do it).

“Is easy, easy. Good players can play together. Is easy to play together. The problem is when the players are not good.”

All signs currently point to Cavani being the next Ibrahimovic. And if Barcelona come calling, United could decide to jettison the 34-year-old to allow Ronaldo to truly take centre-stage.



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