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Edinson Cavani’s stats show why Manchester United contract extension is such a boost for Solskjaer

Questions were raised when Manchester United announced the signing of 33-year-Edinson Cavani on a free transfer in October 2020, but seven months on and the move has since proven entirely justified. 

After scoring eight goals and recording three assists in his last seven outings, the Uruguayan has signed a one-year contract extension, which will keep him at Old Trafford until the summer of 2022. 

The veteran striker had been heavily linked with a move to Boca Juniors with his future at United up in the air, but the Red Devils are now expected to officially announce the extension imminently. 

The news will delight not only the fans, but also manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, who has been particularly vocal about his desire for Cavani to extend his stay. 

And when you look at the stats, it’s not difficult to understand why. Despite starting the season on the periphery of the first XI, Cavani has now overtaken both Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial as Solskjaer’s starting No9, with 15 goals to his name in 35 appearances in all competitions. 

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer (left) has been vocal about his desire for Edinson Cavani (right) to stay

Cavani’s importance to United has been particularly noticeable in recent weeks. His goal against Aston Villa in their previous fixture – a 3-1 away win having been 1-0 down at half-time –  was his fifth goal of the season after coming on as a substitute, equaling United’s record previously held by Javier Hernandez and manager Solskjaer.

It exemplified the Uruguayan’s ability to make an impact from the bench, having previously put in two finishing masterclasses from a starting role in the Europa League semi-final double-header against Roma, in which he scored five of United’s eight goals in an 8-5 aggregate win. 

With Cavani turning 35 in February next year, his ability to take on both roles is an important asset for Solskjaer, who will have to be increasingly intelligent in how he utilises the striker, while continuing the development of Rashford, Martial and Greenwood.  

Manchester United goals per minute (Premier League)
Player All competitions Premier League
Edinson Cavani 123.9 (15 goals in 35 games ) 129.7 (9 goals in 23 games)
Bruno Fernandes 158.2 (27 goals in 54 games) 171.4 (17 goals in 34 games)
Marcus Rashford 194.3 (20 goals in 24 games) 287.6 (10 goals in 53 games)
Mason Greenwood 261.1 (11 goals in 48 games) 274.7 (6 goals in 28 games)
Daniel James 285.2 (5 goals in 14 games) 274.0 (3 goals in 24 games)
Anthony Martial  346.0 (7 goals in 22 games) 371.3 (4 goals in 36 games)

While Cavani hasn’t been given as many minutes as Rashford, Greenwood or Fernandes, the Uruguayan has proved to be United’s deadliest marksman this season. 

He has been their most prolific scorer in the Premier League, notching a goal every 129.7 minutes, significantly higher than his closest competitor in Fernandes, who also benefits from being the club’s penalty taker. 

Cavani is also United’s most prolific attacker in all competitions, having scored a goal every 123.9 minutes, including five goals and three assists in just four Europa League outings.  

It should be noted that he failed to score in any of his four Champions League appearances, however, as United finished behind Paris Saint-Germain and RB Leipzig to drop into the Europa League.   

Premier League goals per minute (9+ goals)
Player Minutes per goal Minutes played 
Gareth Bale 87.8 791 
Kelechi Iheanacho 113.3  1246 
Jesse Lingard  128.3  1155 
Edinson Cavani  129.7  1167 
Diogo Jota  129.7  1038
Harry Kane  134.1 2815 
Mohamed Salah  136.0 2720 
Alexandre Lacazette  146.6  1907 
Ilkay Gundogan  157.0 1884 

Regardless, Cavani’s stats don’t just compare well to his United team-mates, but the Premier League as a whole. 

His nine goals in 23 outings have been scored at a rate of one in every 129.7 minutes, which is the fourth-highest in the league of those who have scored nine goals or more. 

Crucially, he actually has a better ratio than Premier League Player of the Season-contender Harry Kane, alongside Mohamed Salah, Alexandre Lacazette and Ilkay Gundogan. 

The only players who have a better record this season are Jesse Lingard, Kelechi Iheanacho and Gareth Bale.  

Cavani has unleashed his trademark celebration on numerous occasions this season

Cavani has unleashed his trademark celebration on numerous occasions this season

Cavani is also having a positive impact on the United youngsters, such as Mason Greenwood

Cavani is also having a positive impact on the United youngsters, such as Mason Greenwood

Cavani’s goals have certainly been crucial for United this season, but despite his age, his experience could also be highly beneficial for the club in the long-term.  

United had received criticism for their lack of an out-and-out striker prior to Cavani’s arrival, but the Uruguayan can now help develop those lower down the pecking order for the future.

Watching Cavani up close is certainly something a 19-year-old Greenwood is reveling in.  

‘He’s exactly the same as last week, you know what he’s going to do but you can’t seem to stop him,’ Greenwood told MUTV. 

‘He’s still scoring goals, it was exactly the same against Roma. It’s nice to watch there on the bench, to watch his movement when he scores. 

‘It’s his movement, everyone knows he can do it but they can’t stop it, I’m sure we’re all learning off him, me, Rashy, all the attackers and all the young lads are looking up to him so it’s good to have him there.’

United now have five crucial fixtures remaining this season, including Premier League clashes against Leicester and Liverpool, as they look to secure second place, and – of course – the Europa League final against Villarreal. 

And should Solskjaer earn his first taste of silverware as United boss, you can be sure Cavani will be involved.