Marcus Rashford insists Edinson Cavani will prove a valuable addition for Manchester United after the veteran Uruguay striker swapped life on the farm for the Old Trafford spotlight.
Cavani signed a two-year contract worth £210,000-per-week ($271,000) on transfer deadline day and could make his debut in United’s opening Champions League group game against his former club Paris Saint Germain on Tuesday.
The 33-year-old missed Saturday’s 4-1 victory at Newcastle — United’s first match since his signing — after going into quarantine for 14 days following his arrival in England.
But Cavani is expected to be available to join Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s squad in time for an emotional trip to Paris.
“I am going to experience an exceptional moment, that nobody thought would happen. It will be an incredible thing, beautiful emotions,” Cavani told TF1 recently.
Cavani scored 200 goals in seven years with PSG, but he left the Ligue 1 champions in June, missing their run to the Champions League final.
His age and lack of recent action — he hasn’t played since PSG’s Champions League win over Borussia Dortmund in March — prompted some United fans to label Cavani a panic buy after their failure to land Borussia Dortmund forward Jadon Sancho.
Cavani spent the last few months shearing sheep on his farm back home in Uruguay and indulging his unlikely passion for ballet — even featuring in an advert for a Montevideo dance school.
But, while he relishes his quiet life away from football and could easily have slipped into retirement, Cavani’s love affair with the game was strong enough to persuade him to accept a new challenge with United, regardless of what the critics say.
“I had a lot of different opportunities, I was excited to play in the Premier League and even more so for Manchester United,” Cavani said.
“I am very motivated because I always want to play as much as possible, work, train and give the best of myself.”
– ‘Massive player’ –
Cavani and his girlfriend contracted Covid-19 over a month ago after a holiday in Ibiza, but he is recovered and ready to add his experience and predatory instincts to a young United team in need of guidance.
While their free-scoring victory at Newcastle suggested United already have enough attacking talent, the truth is Rashford, Mason Greenwood and Daniel James are all still relatively raw, capable of excellence and head-scratching inconsistency in equal measure.
Rashford hopes Cavani can emulate the impact made by Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who joined the club in 2016 having left PSG as a free agent.
Ibrahimovic, who was also in his 30s during his time at Old Trafford, bagged four goals in his first five United appearances and finished with 28 in his debut season as his talismanic presence took the pressure off his team-mates.
“As a forward line it is something to look forward to,” Rashford told Sky Sports.
“Hopefully he comes in and scores goals, because he can definitely help us win games and points. He can be a massive player for us this season.
“To win two or three trophies in a season you need a squad, it’s not possible if you don’t have people who can score goals one week and the next week.
“Growing up, United always had four or five forwards who could score goals at any time. The closer we get to that, the more strength we’ll have.”