Manchester United fans may never get to show their appreciation for Edinson Cavani but the Uruguayan is ensuring that he leaves his mark even if he does depart this summer.
The 34-year-old scored twice and provided another two assists in a world-class display as United demolished Roma in the first leg of their Europa League semi-final, and it is clear to see why Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is so desperate to keep him at the club beyond the end of the season.
That, sadly, looks unlikely.
Nonetheless, after a scintillating night’s work, it is looking more likely that Cavani will cap off his short spell in Manchester with a trophy.
“Absolutely delighted with him,” was Solskjaer’s assessment post-match.
The only tinge of disappointment to his performance at Old Trafford on Thursday night was that he didn’t get the hat-trick he richly deserved and, as he scored United’s second and third goals on another memorable European night, there were no fans to serenade him.
Solskjaer must be fed up of joking that his side like to make things difficult for themselves and, after a dominant start in which they looked to set the tone for the tie with an impressive goal within eight minutes, it looked to be the same story again.
A dubious penalty decision against Paul Pogba and some dodgy defending allowed the Italian visitors to go in 2-1 up at the break. Solskjaer will be well aware that there will be no room for what he called ‘junior, schoolboy errors’ should they get to the final. But at least this time there was to be no bottling it from his side.
The difference from Solskjaer’s four previous semi-final defeats was the class of the three players who masterminded United’s comeback on the night: Cavani, Pogba and Bruno Fernandes.
With serious doubts over the long-term future of two of those three players, the club must do everything within their power to try and keep at least one of them. Cavani’s mind appears to be made up but the prospect of Pogba extending his stay may well now be on the cards.
As they combined to devastating effect, Roma fans could have been forgiven for a sense of deja vu. They were hit for seven at this stadium in the Champions League in 2007.
It was only six here but it certainly could have been more.
Cavani, with a sublime first-time finish into the top corner for United’s equaliser, set the tone for an impressive second half. He was there again to give United the lead, a poacher’s finish after substitute goalkeeper Antonio Mirante spilled Aaron Wan-Bissaka’s shot.
That was his 50th goal in major European club competition.
That kind of experience is key for Solskjaer; he spoke pre-match about bringing Pogba and Cavani back into the starting XI along with Fernandes. In a team fighting to win their first trophy under this manager, they know what it takes to get there.
“He’s just showing his experience,” the manager said afterwards of Cavani. “We need that in this time of the season. We want the experience to step up and he has done.”
Fernandes has had a quiet few weeks by his very high standards but he was back to his brilliant best against the Serie A side; two goals – to which he added two assists – took his scoring tally for the season to 26. Pogba scored the fifth with a firm header from one of those passes supplied by the Portuguese.
Mason Greenwood came off the bench to score with a typically fine finish to make it six and Solskjaer’s dreams of a first final as manager look like they might finally become a reality.
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