Manchester United hoping Edinson Cavani will bring the leadership and quality they crave

Striker set to make his debut against former club PSG

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“I like this player,” said Lyon manager Rudi Garcia when asked about Edinson Cavani during the international break.

“He’s a great striker and fighter. Paris St Germain lost a lot when they lost Cavani. When you have a top player who is also a great fighter, it’s fantastic. They take the team with them.

"I don’t know how many years Cavani can continue to score goals and stay at the top, but for me it’s a very good opportunity for Manchester.”

And what’s not to like about the 33-year-old all-time PSG top scorer who landed in Manchester last week and started training when most of his new teammates were on international duty?

Cavani’s age, for one. United tried to sign him when he was 26 and failed because of his financial demands and also that he would be the main striker – something the club could not guarantee with Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie. Cavani wanted that assurance because he sometimes tired of playing second string to Zlatan Ibrahimovic at PSG.

Ibrahimovic joined United in 2016 and was a success for a season. The hope is that Cavani can be the same – an opportunistic buy who will bring leadership qualities, professionalism and a winning mentality in a squad which needs them.

The Uruguayan is in the frame to figure against PSG on Tuesday in Parc de Princes as both clubs start their 2020-21 Champions League campaign, though it’s more likely to be from the bench. United don’t want to rush someone who had injuries last season and hasn’t featured in a competitive game since April.

But what an asset to have coming on from the bench, especially one who knows more about United’s formidable opponents than anyone else.

PSG reached the Champions League final last season for the first time, United were not even in the competition.

“PSG is a team built to win the Champions League,” Garcia told me recently. “They have no opponent for the league in France. They have two or three players for every position. They have Neymar and (Kylian) M’Bappe and it seems there is a good atmosphere between them. When you have two guys like this playing for each other it’s complicated for the other team. It’s possible to beat them, but normally not.”

Bayern Munich did beat them in the final and Garcia added: “I expected more from Paris St Germain.

"They have great players and two of them, Neymar and M’Bappe, are the best in the world with Messi and Ronaldo. But even for a team like PSG, it’s possible not to be 100 per cent. In that game, experience made the difference. Bayern Munich is used to playing these games and Paris St Germain is not.”

The PSG fixture in the United's last Champions League campaign was the greatest single moment since Ole Gunnar Solskjaer became manager.

PSG comfortably won the first leg at Old Trafford, with M’Bappe’s speed and timing too much for United.

M’Bappe scored the second, the first coming from another deeply impressive Parisian, Presnel Kimpembe, having been set up by former United player Angel di Maria – the architect of both goals to inflict Solskjaer’s first defeat as United manager.

Paris Saint-Germain's French forward Kylian Mbappe (L) and Paris Saint-Germain's Brazilian forward Neymar (R) react  during the French L1 football match between Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) and Angers (SCO) at the Parc des Princes stadium in Paris on October 2, 2020. / AFP / FRANCK FIFE

They were clear favourites to advance to the quarter finals and their fans speculated about who their opponents would be, as did the French media and PSG as a club – something United noted.

When I asked Solskjaer this year whether he was surprised by what happened that night in Paris, he replied in the negative. “I put a team in my head when I walked out in the stadium the day before. I looked at the players and thought ‘No. I need to play him and him because we have a chance here’. The game went exactly how we planned. We wanted to get to the last 10 minutes with one goal in it. I would have been happy at 1-0 after 80 minutes. We were missing so many that it was impossible for us to go out there and outplay PSG.

“We had to play a clever game and we changed our system in the match. In the first half we played a 4-4-2 with a low block and two low strikers. We had a couple of video sessions. Kieran (McKenna) and Michael (Carrick) were different class. We had a long meeting with Fred and Scott (McTominay). Fred played that system at Shakhtar. We actually used a Shakhtar v Man City game to show him what we wanted him to do. We worked on Marcus and Romelu up front."

Solskjaer felt that PSG were too confident, too comfortable. “We wanted the game to be slow, where they felt they had nothing to push for because they were through. Then we planned to hit them quickly on the break. This team can do that. Fast.

“In the press conference the night before, I wasn’t lying when I said that I thought we could do it. I loved the reaction after that game, the happiness, but we were also mentally and physically tired and we felt it after.”

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Again, PSG will be clear favourites though, like United, they had a bumpy start to the season, losing their first two league games – but winning the five since. United beat Newcastle 4-1 on Saturday and while the coaches know they played well, they also know that more stray passes in midfield will be picked up on and punished in Paris.

Parc de Princes was bouncing with noise and colour last time. On Tuesday, the stadium will be almost empty and Paris is facing a 9pm curfew. There will be no packed away end singing in the rain, but with their recent history and so many players having represented both clubs, plus United’s Parisian players Paul Pogba and Anthony Martial, what happens on the pitch will still be intriguing.

United feel there are always goals in their side. Adding Cavani should mean more.