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Edinson Cavani and Mason Greenwood: Master & Apprentice

Manchester United would surely find it needful and expedient to try to keep hold of Edinson Cavani for at least another season – because of what he can teach their younger players besides what he gives them on the pitch.

More evidence was witnessed on both aspects in the second half of Sunday’s galvanising 3-1 win over Aston Villa watching Cavani and United’s teenage striker Mason Greenwood, like another episode on the revered master and his prodigious apprentice.

At 34, Cavani is a venerable centre-forward with world-class abilities, and he showed his class again when he came off the bench at Villa Park by snucking into the area and then superbly tucking away his sublime header.

Goals aside, Cavani can also greatly influence Greenwood in replicating that kind of ninja-like movement where agility and guile go hand-in-glove. It makes it so difficult to pick him up in the box, and the way he perfectly times his runs means he arrives in the right place at exactly the precise moment.

Having done that, one still needs the innate ability to put the ball in the net to consummate the process. And down the years there have not been many better than Cavani at accomplishing that – and he has clearly demonstrated that he still has that killer instinct even now in his 30s.

However while the Uruguay striker is nearing the end of his distinguished career, Greenwood is only sweet 19 and at the genesis of his but already looking like he will be at United for a long time to come. Surely it would be tremendous for his future development to be under the tutelage of the master Cavani for another season, at the very least. After all, it is already in the football oracles that Greenwood will be a goalscorer, regardless where he plays.

Every summer, United have the stature to be linked with signing an assortment of top strikers as it will most likely be again this year, whether Cavani signs a new contract or not.

In the case of Greenwood, they already have in their possession a gifted forward who has the potential to go right to the very top of the game and be up there with the very best goalscorers – he only needs to develop the nous to refine his God-given talents.

It’s not that Greenwood is going to be a top-quality player – he already is one. His finishing with either foot is nothing short of magnificent. With a short back-lift when he shoots, it doesn’t give defenders or the goalkeeper time to set themselves properly. Which was what got him his goal against Villa, apart from poor defending from Tyrone Mings and Emiliano Martinez.

Noticeably and notably, Greenwood has been used out wide a lot this season and there has been talk about whether his future could lie as an out-and-out centre-forward for United. But with the game already changing much, which exact position he plays in does not matter too much anymore.

A look at two of the greatest goalscorers ever – Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo – would suffice to substantiate this. Neither of them would be called centre-forwards. The same with what Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane do at Liverpool too – neither of then play down the middle either.

Although Greenwood isn’t them, it just shows one doesn’t have to be a centre-forward to be prolific in contemporary football these days because as he gets older, the talented youngster will continue to develop and get better and his ability to score goals can never ever be taken away from him.

United have character with proven world-class players like Cavani to back up their quality. Now it’s only a matter of harnessing this treasure trove to be brought to bear on their younger talents like Greenwood.

Which again reaffirms the fact that Edinson Cavani should be convinced to stay for at least one more season.

Credit: Football Tribe Malaysia