Edinson Cavani extension is a massive boost for Man Utd and Jadon Sancho deal could be next, says Gary Neville
Gary Neville believes Edinson Cavani’s contract extension represents a “massive” boost for Manchester United and expects them to target Jadon Sancho rather than another striker this summer.
Cavani, 34, arrived at Old Trafford on a free transfer on Deadline Day in October and has since helped Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side climb to second in the Premier League and reach the Europa League final.
The former Paris Saint-Germain striker scored his eighth goal in his last seven appearances in Sunday’s 3-1 win over Aston Villa, taking his total this season to 15 in all competitions.
Neville admits he was unsure about the decision to sign Cavani initially but believes his all-round contribution has been invaluable and is delighted to see him extend his stay at the club.
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Neville: I was sceptical about Cavani
“It’s massive news for Manchester United,” the Sky Sports pundit said on Monday Night Football.
“I was one of the sceptics when United signed Cavani, thinking about how windows had gone in previous years where players were signed late on with an air of desperation when United hadn’t signed their main targets.
“United chased Jadon Sancho last summer and ended up with Cavani in the end, someone who was touted to go to the MLS.
“But he’s been absolutely sensational in every single way. Forget the goals; his attitude, commitment, and his impact on the other players has been sensational.
“Manchester United can press better when he is on the pitch, they have a better target man to hit.
“He’s a throwback, a classic centre-forward who makes brilliant runs that you would have been taught 20 years ago.
“He’s been an absolute joy. We questioned whether he could do it for Manchester United, but he has done it and I’m delighted that he’s going to be there next season. They are a better team with him in and he is in their best team.
“He’s always in great positions. The timing of his runs and his finishing from those positions is the best in the league. His heading is absolutely wonderful, as is his work ethic.
“He’s filled a hole for Manchester United. Anthony Martial has been injured, [Marcus] Rashford is better on the left, [Mason] Greenwood hasn’t been quite ready [to play up front].
“Without him, this season would have been completely different.”
Neville expects Sancho over another striker
Manchester United have been linked with moves for Tottenham’s Harry Kane and Borussia Dortmund’s Erling Haaland this summer but Neville now expects them to focus their resources elsewhere.
“If you look at the policy over the last couple of years since Solskjaer has come in, I don’t think they will sign a striker now Cavani has signed,” he said.
“They have been desperate for Sancho but didn’t get him last summer and were criticised for that, but they could look incredibly smart if they could get him this summer at half the price, having waited 12 months.”
Neville believes United could raise funds to sign Sancho by selling some of the attackers on the fringes of the side.
“Juan Mata has done fantastically well for the club but I think he will leave and United can get good money for Daniel James.
“There’s a feeling that Jesse Lingard, having done really well at West Ham, could come back, but I think Ole will say ‘no’ and tell him to go and explore elsewhere.
“That leaves you with Marcus Rashford, Mason Greenwood, Paul Pogba, Anthony Martial, Donny van de Beek and Edinson Cavani up top.
“If Manchester United were to sign Harry Kane and Sancho, as an example, would Cavani play? Would Greenwood continue to emerge and have the growth? Where would it leave Rashford? Where does Pogba fit in if Ole wants to play two midfield players like he often has?
“Looking at it, I think Sancho comes in on the right, Greenwood could back him up on that side. Up front, United will have Cavani and Greenwood, who they want to play up front because he is outstanding.
“And then on the left you’ve got Rashford and Martial, with Pogba potentially there if not required in midfield.
“If United sign Kane or Erling Haaland, I don’t think that works given the way they have recruited over recent years and how they want young talent to emerge.
“Allowing young players to emerge, allowing Rashford to play and bringing in Sancho would be Manchester United’s business done.”
Carragher: Sancho would stifle Greenwood
Jamie Carragher offered a differing view, saying United must still recruit an elite striker in his prime if they are to become title challengers and insisting signing Sancho would stifle Greenwood’s development.
“I absolutely love Cavani but I have said consistently that I think Manchester United need a 25-year-old Cavani,” he said.
“The big thing for me is Greenwood. I think he’s going to be a superstar. If you bring Sancho in, he’s got to play 70 or 80 per cent of the games on the right-hand side.
“I just don’t think Mason Greenwood is ready yet to be the second centre-forward behind Cavani.
“You’ve either got a really old guy, who has done brilliantly, or a really young guy, who is maybe not ready physically to lead the line for Man Utd.
“Greenwood has started 19 games this season. The natural progression next season is to go to 30 or 35. I think Manchester United buying a Harry Kane or an Erling Haaland and actually using Greenwood from the right, coming inside on that left foot, would be better.
“I think physically it would help him, because he’s not having to hold the ball up with his back to goal.
“I would just be really wary that if Manchester United brought Sancho in, it might stunt the growth of Greenwood. I’m not quite sure at his age he can play centre-forward consistently.
“I think Manchester United need a centre-forward more than they need the right sider and I’m not sure about Greenwood playing centre-forward right now.
“Sancho could come in and play better and get more crosses in, but could he get more goals than Greenwood from that position? I’m not sure.”
Neville: Cavani can help Greenwood grow
Neville insists Manchester United do have enough goals in the side to challenge for the title without signing Kane or Haaland and feels Cavani could help Greenwood reach the next level.
“If you look at Cavani, Rashford, Greenwood, Sancho, Fernandes and Pogba as a group of players, there is a massive amount of goals and assists in there.
“They might not have that one outstanding centre forward, but neither do City in some ways. In that pack of United players, there is unbelievable options in terms of goals and assists.
“How much would they have to pay for Kane or Haaland? United believe in Greenwood immensely, and United have gone back to their principles of believing in youth.
“I think Cavani for another year allows Greenwood to grow. Greenwood is emerging as the man, and United believe he is the man, but he needs another 12 to 18 months to develop.
“Cavani allows him to do that before becoming the main striker next season.”
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