The irony cannot be lost on anyone at Manchester United that manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has, up until now, refused to start new signing Edinson Cavani in any of Manchester United’s league games so far.
Solskjaer himself known as the baby assassin for his uncanny brilliance to be in the right place at the right time equalled by his boyish looks which at 47 he still retains, is there to make the decisions. But Solskjaer was also known as the super sub. There were countless times Sir Alex Ferguson called on him from the bench to save the day, the most famous of course in the 1999 Champions League final when the Norwegian came on with 9 minutes remaining and scored the winning goal.
This season Solskjaer, gone from super sub to manager at Manchester United is channelling the great Ferguson. Cavani at 33 has been involved in 5 of United’s nine games so far and has been involved in four goals already, scoring three times and assisting in another. While Cavani scored his debut goal against Everton at Goodison Park for the Red Devils at the beginning of November the Uruguayan ‘arrived’ in the Premier League for good and bad this weekend. First let’s concentrate on the good.
Cavani replaced Mason Greenwood on the 46th minute. It wasn’t that Greenwood was having a terrible game, but Solskjaer made the decision at 2-0 down to replace inexperience, (Greenwood being 19) with Cavani. Though Greenwood may have been livid with the timing, he would have to accept that Solskjaer made the right choice at the final whistle. And Cavani’s impact was almost immediate.
It took Cavani 13 minutes to get into the game and set up Bruno Fernandes for his seventh goal of the season. The Portuguese wonder is far and away United’s best player this season in the fantasy rankings and has earned 34 points overall, 19 more than second placed Marcus Rashford. Cavani on the wing on the right hand side and with all the time in the world passed the ball into the centre right to Fernandes feet and the midfielder had no chance.
But it was the way in how Cavani took the ball. He didn’t seem urgent with his club 2-0 down, he was just professional. Solskjaer’s faith was being paid off. If Solskajer produced a wry smile at that he may want to have adopted the Uruguayan when his header equalised the game with a quarter of an hour to go.
A cross came in and Fred struck the ball, which deflected from a Southampton player and it was the pure super quick reaction of Cavani, the menacing of all strikers, throwing back the years, unravelling the swashbuckling comebacks which are in fact deeply ingrained in the side that he is playing for. Southampton looked mentally finished, in a game they were cruising, 1,800 seconds from victory and now it was being snatched away from them. It may have been 2-2 with fifteen minutes to go but one could sense that United were going to go on to win it.
And yet the time ticked by with chances for both clubs, United could smell blood and most importantly three points, Southampton once in a state of victors were simply happy to get a point at this stage. But it would be a stage set up for Cavani. At the death Rashford swung a ball in and Cavani channelling another player of yesteryear in Jurgen Klinsmann sliced the ball in with his head with all the professional pomp you would expect of a player who has worked so tirelessly playing for some of the biggest teams in Europe over the years. It was 3-2, he slid on his knees and the game was over. Manchester United have won their third game in a row and moved up to 9th place.
With two goals and an assist it had been a perfect day for Cavani, even some fans who may have doubted him signing for United in what is supposed to be his twilight years could hardly deny the sheer quality that he brought to the team in this match. He won United a duel destined for defeat and Cavani could feel happy about himself. That was until a Twitter post and a few hours later.
A follower on twitter who is now believed to know Cavani congratulated the striker on his performance. Cavani replied with “gracias negrito”! And that is when the FA launched their enquiry. The translation is tricky because we are talking about different meanings for different cultures but it roughly would translate to thanks black. One can only presume the original post came from a black person.
To their credit the FA have a zero tolerance attitude to racism unlike some countries and crack down heavy on it. At the same time no one can suggest that Cavani is a racist, far from it in fact. This doesn’t feel like racial slurring but more about not being educated in English culture as to phrases which simply cannot be accepted in England anymore. For that it is hard to accuse Cavani, who has only been in the country for a few months, he is adapting and the last thing on his mind would have been this. For foreign footballers making the switch to England it is football, football and language probably in that order.
However it is good that the FA have made an enquiry and Cavani has apologised. He may well not fully understand why, but he has made the right decision. Now it is time for the FA to act accordingly. Normally something of this nature can invoke a two to three game ban. However maybe the FA need to think outside the box for this case.
Wouldn’t it be better if they set up an education type of program for foreign players coming to play in the Premier League? Again this isn’t about accusing anyone of racism and hate but more about educating players in the different culture in which they are now playing. It would be refreshing to see the FA act on this and make it count, rather than to see Cavani handed a 3 game ban, hamper his own team and have no lessons learned for the future.
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