Gary Neville has said that it is no wonder Edinson Cavani felt aggrieved after Manchester United promised then took away his opportunity to lead the club.
The Uruguay striker is leaving Old Trafford this summer as a free agent following almost two full seasons. He arrived in October 2020 as something of a panic buy amid United’s need for attacking reinforcements.
Cavani’s strong end-of-season form in 2020/21 led the Red Devils to the Europa League final and helped ensure a second-placed Premier League finish.
This term, though, he struggled for minutes, partly through injury but partly other factors too. Indeed, reports earlier this week revealed how Cavani’s situation turned around last summer.
He had been excited to lead the line at Man Utd, only for Cristiano Ronaldo to make a shock return to Old Trafford. Ole Gunnar Solskjar and Sir Alex Ferguson convinced Ronaldo to snub Manchester City. United then demanded that Cavani hand over his No. 7 shirt to Ronaldo.
Cavani subsequently became frustrated and wanted to leave. However, United supposedly told him to stay and fight for his place, which did not work out as planned.
Speaking on The Overlap about the revelations, Neville slammed his former club for their decision.
“I think at the start of the season, he [Ronaldo] created a problem straightaway with Cavani,” the pundit said.
“[He was] being pleaded to stay and lead the attack for the year, but when they signed Ronaldo, Cavani was shot then and finished.”
Neville added that Ronaldo’s Man Utd return “upset the dynamic in the dressing room” for Bruno Fernandes and Harry Maguire.
Portugal midfielder Fernandes scored 28 goals in 2020/21, but dropped off this season. Club captain Maguire, meanwhile, endured a shaky campaign at centre-back.
Neville admits Ronaldo, Man Utd impact
“I think Bruno looks up to him [Ronaldo] like a godfather in Portugal so it made him feel a bit inferior to what he was before,” Neville said.
“It made Maguire a little bit inferior as captain just naturally – nothing from Ronaldo’s doing this.
“Just his presence itself on the pitch means everyone’s looking to Cristiano with Harry trying to establish himself as United captain.
“Harry Maguire has gone from someone who I think was growing on the pitch last season during Covid to someone who is now looks like he is shot to pieces when he pulls on a red shirt. Bruno looks like half the player.”
Big Ten Hag revival needed
Pundits such as Neville have also hit out in the past at the manager situation for causing United problems this season.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer got the sack in November, but interim boss Ralf Rangnick could not do much better.
As a result, the focus has turned to what new coach Erik ten Hag can do at Old Trafford.
There is talk of new signings all across the pitch to overhaul the squad.
However, one of Ten Hag’s biggest priorities should be finding the quality from Fernandes and Maguire once again.
The duo have shown they can be star Premier League players before and Ten Hag must bring it out of them.