SOUTHAMPTON — With Manchester United 2-1 down and the final 20 minutes arriving at Southampton, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was trying to get the attention of half time substitute Edinson Cavani.
‘Eddie, Eddie’ he shouted. Cavani couldn’t hear him, so Solskjaer told Nemanja Matic to tell Cavani his bit of advice.
“Tell him to stay central and don’t go wide. Stay central and not side to side,” the former predatory forward for Man United told Cavani, a veteran predatory forward of his own.
What happened next? Edinson Cavani stayed central and flicked home a deflected shot from Bruno Fernandes. Then in the 93rd minute he stayed central to flick home a cross from the left from Marcus Rashford.
Seems like Solskjaer’s advice paid off.
Cavani, 33, has been here before but he went close, scored twice and had an assist as United fought back from 2-0 down to win 3-2. El Matador was already working out Southampton’s defense but Solskjaer’s advice from the sidelines is the kind of small detail which wins games, helps build momentum and stretched an away winning run to eight games.
“He’s got all the attributes of a top-class footballer and human being. He’s had a great player, has scored goals wherever he’s been,” Solskjaer said about Cavani. “He’s so professional with his preparation, everywhere, at meal times. It’s important to have a focal point in the box. We haven’t really had that since Romelu [Lukaku] left. Anthony, Marcus, Mason, they’re different kinds of forwards.”
That different type of forward (who looks like being a great free transfer, despite his hefty wages) is what won Man United the game and moved them to within two points of fourth, as they have a game in-hand.
This was a dramatic comeback win for Manchester United, but in truth they were pretty good throughout this game and were only 2-0 down after two well-worked set piece goals from Southampton. With Donny van de Beek playing on the left and cutting inside, plus Bruno Fernandes running the show centrally, they always looked dangerous.
There’s no doubt Edinson Cavani changed the game, and as the United players piled on him to celebrate and the bench hugged each other in delight, there was a sense of this kind of comeback being part of Man United’s, and Solskjaer’s, DNA.
“That’s very important and it’s a trait that Manchester United players should always have, never to give up, never to give in,” Solskjaer said when asked about their comeback. “We had a manager who never let anyone give up and that’s one of my traits as well. If you don’t play well, at least work hard.”
Despite all of their early-season struggles, this win was ignited by Cavani, masterminded by Solskjaer and proved there is plenty of grit at Manchester United.