Edinson Cavani is inspiring Manchester United’s next generation of stars – despite not speaking the same language.
United currently have the youngest Premier League squad, with emerging talents including Mason Greenwood, 19, Brandon Williams, 20, and Aaron Wan-Bissaka, 22.
Although Cavani is not yet fluent in English, United Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said the 33-year-old leads by example and is the ideal mentor for the likes of fellow striker Greenwood, just as Eric Cantona was for the Class of ’92.
“Edinson has experienced everything in football,” said Solskjaer. “The challenge with him, with the likes of Brandon and Mason, is the language barrier.
“Edinson doesn’t really speak a lot of English yet. He’s learning. But they can see by his commitment, desire, every day in training.
“In the squad you need a mix, a balance between experience and youth. For our young players they have some great role models in Juan Mata, Nemanja Matic, David de Gea, Edinson, the over 30s.
“We don’t have many of them but they’re very important. I like youth, I like enthusiasm, passion, but you need that experience as well. That’s why we brought Edinson in.”
After the heroics of his debut season, when he plundered 17 goals, Greenwood has endured a difficult second full campaign.
He has started just four of United’s 13 games and was also sent home from England duty in September, along with Phil Foden, for a breach of discipline.
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Ole Gunnar Solskjaer may have missed out on Jadon Sancho in the summer, but he still made some big moves in the transfer market with Donny van de Beek, Alex Telles and Edinson Cavani all arriving.
But their start to the season has been a mixed bag, with a home defeat to Crystal Palace and a 6-1 thrashing by Spurs at one end of the scale, and a tremendous 2-1 win over PSG in Paris at the other.
The question now is whether they can find the right balance?
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Greenwood missed up to nine days of training through illness, but is back in contention for today’s visit of West Brom, with Solskajer backing him to overcome his tough start to the season.
“You have to take a step back sometimes,” said Solskjaer. “The boy’s only 19 and he’s had a fantastic year. If we go a year back, I left him out of the Carabao Cup game against Chelsea.
“Mason stayed behind to play against Doncaster in the Checkatrade Trophy for game-time, so that’s how far he’s come.
“He’s got 19 goals, made his England debut, scored in his first Under-21s game, so the headlines are going to be about him when he scores and when he doesn’t play.
“Everyone’s allowed to not be well, he’s been away eight or nine days from training, but I have no doubts about him. He has a very good head on him and the talent is there for all to see.”
Solskjaer admitted he has spoken to United’s £89million record signing Paul Pogba, after France boss Didier Deschamps claimed the midfielder was not happy with his club situation.
Pogba has started just one of United’s last four Premier League games and is likely to be on the bench again today. Solskjaer said: “I’ve spoken to Paul about it.
“Of course he’s not happy when he’s not playing, and not playing really well. He’s not been happy with his performances. It’s about getting momentum and rhythm. Because he had Covid, he needs time.”