Talking Tactics: United Cav the chance to get Edinson firing
Edinson Cavani will not be going anywhere this month.
Ralf Rangnick recently confirmed that the striker will be staying at Old Trafford, following speculation linking him with a move to Barcelona.
But how can the Red Devils boss get the best out of the veteran Uruguayan in the final few months of his contract?
Ahead of Manchester United’s trip to Aston Villa tonight, we offer some suggestions.
Keep him fresh
Of course, this is not entirely within Rangnick’s control, but the United coaching staff and medical team need to do everything in their power to allow Cavani to feature as much as possible.
The 34-year-old has already missed a chunk of the season through injury, only completing 90 minutes for the first time this term in last month’s 3-1 win over Burnley.
His playing time will need to be managed carefully if he is to have the biggest impact possible between now and the end of the campaign.
Leading the way
36-year-old Cristiano Ronaldo aside, Cavani is the oldest outfield player in the United squad — and Rangnick has spoken of the value his experience brings to the camp.
He said: "Edi said that I can rely on him until the end of the season and that he will continue to give his very best in order to be a role model for the younger players.
"Edi is one of those players with a very strong mentality. He has vast amounts of experience and a good work ethic that can also set a good example for the rest of the players."
Lending a hand
In the Red Devils’ last two Premier League outings, Rangnick has opted for Cavani and Ronaldo as his front two.
Naturally, with a combined age of 70, that is a seriously experienced partnership — but they provide great athleticism too.
Cavani is a much more effective presser, averaging 4.49 successful pressures per 90 minutes to Ronaldo’s 1.74 — but that could take some of the strain off the Portuguese and help him to find the net consistently.
Something to work with
Since Rangnick took the job of interim manager in early December, United have created seven big chances in five games at a rate of 1.4 per match. That only just ranks above the league average.
As elite a goalscorer as Cavani is, he still needs good openings to work with — and United could certainly be crafting more of those.
After 19 league fixtures this campaign, the Red Devils are averaging 1.53 goals per 90 — quite a large drop-off from the 1.84 per 90 they registered over the course of last season.
A crossing crisis
During Rangnick’s time in charge, United have attempted the joint-fifth most open-play crosses in the Premier League (76).
The problem is that they rank 12th for open-play crossing accuracy in that time (22.37%).
How do United set about improving those numbers and helping out a player who can be absolutely devastating in the air?
Well, the answer might lie in which full-backs Rangnick picks. After all, in his 4-2-2-2 system, that is where most of the width comes from.
At right-back, the German tactician has used both Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Diogo Dalot — with the latter’s open-play crossing accuracy the highest of any United defender in the Premier League this term (30.43%).
On the left, though, Luke Shaw has failed to build on his fine Euro 2020 campaign, and he has produced just three successful open-play crosses from 38 attempted.
Fellow left-back Alex Telles has only started three games under Rangnick, but will fancy his chances of becoming a more regular fixture in the side if that form continues.
Cavani has proved he has all the weapons to be one of Europe's most lethal marksman.
Should Rangnick be able to manage his minutes and improve the service provided, the ex-Paris Saint-Germain star could be the man to fire the Red Devils back into the top four.