In 2019, Manchester United under Ole Gunnar Solskjær decided to sell Romelu Lukaku. The Belgian joined Inter Milan for a fee of €80 million. Solskjær decided that Anthony Martial will be his No.9 and Lukaku had to leave as a result of it.
During Jose Mourinho’s time, Martial was close to leaving the club. The former Chelsea manager did not fancy the Frenchman. While Ole decided to give Martial a chance and he gave him more opportunities. The former Monaco man always wanted to play as No.9 but due to speed, he was often shifted onto the wings.
Solskjær’s idea behind playing Martial as No.9 was to add more directness to the attack. He wanted more pace and agility in the attack. While Lukaku was more of an orthodox striker. Though the Belgian has been a big success in Itlay, the same can’t be said about Martial as a No.9.
He is yet to fully convince everyone that he can be the man to lead the attack for the Red Devils. However early signs also show some promise. Last season he scored 23 goals in all competitions. The Frenchman has also formed a good trio with Marcus Rashford and Mason Greenwood.
The Lukaku void at Old Trafford
The departure of Romelu Lukaku meant two things. First, that Martial was the new No.9 for the Red Devils. Second Solksjear had no other choice but to keep on playing Martial. Even if he does not perform well, United had no real alternative.
In his absence, the likes of Rashford and Greenwood have played as No.9 but they were not there to compete with him. Rather they were there to play till the time the former Lyon forward comes back. In essence, United not only sold Lukaku, but they also sold any competition for the No.9 spot.
The need to bring in a new type of striker was felt in the January transfer window of 2020. As Martial was not a target man, he offered different qualities. Thus on deadline day, they signed Odion Ighalo on loan, which was further extended.
Despite the arrival of the former Watford man, he was not really a competition for Martial. He was there more as a super-sub or a target man. The only meaningful competition Martial had was in form of Romelu Lukaku, who left the club in the summer of 2019.
How Edison Cavani can fill that void?
Despite being 33 years old he is still a top striker. Cavani is a proven goalscorer given his age and numbers in Serie A and Ligue 1. He looks more convincing than the Frenchman as a sole striker. The Uruguayan also has the experience of leading the line for a top club.
The former Palermo forward can certainly challenge Martial for the striker spot. He did not sign for the Red Devils as a backup, he certainly wants to play a key role for the club. Cavani will not accept a role on the bench.
Thus he can provide the necessary competition required at top clubs. This could also push Martial to improve his game if he wants playing time at Old Trafford. Cavani can play the competitor role that Romelu Lukaku could not.
Also, he can help him and other young United forwards with their movements and techniques. It is not every day that you get to observe a proven goalscorer. These young United forwards such as Greenwood, James, Rashford, etc. can learn a lot from the Uruguayan.