EPL

Greenwood and Rashford need another year of Cavani at Man Utd - Neville

By Sports Desk April 12, 2021

Edinson Cavani staying for a second season at Manchester United would benefit not just the team on the pitch but also the development of the club's young forwards, according to Gary Neville.

Cavani scored his seventh league goal of the campaign on Sunday, heading in a cross from Mason Greenwood to put United 2-1 ahead against Tottenham.

Substitute Greenwood added a third in stoppage time to wrap up the victory, with Neville believing the young England international's development - along with that of club and country colleague Marcus Rashford – can only be helped by working regularly with Cavani.

The Uruguayan signed as a free agent and while United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer remains hopeful the player will remain at the club, speculation has suggested the striker wants to return to South America.

"Tottenham had a throw with two minutes to go, and Cavani was moving between the centre-backs trying to stop the ball from being thrown in, and he's organising where Mason Greenwood should be," Neville explained on his podcast for Sky Sports. "I thought, 'Greenwood needs another year of Cavani being alongside him.'

"It inspired us as young players when you saw great players like Bryan Robson and Steve Bruce and Eric Cantona and Mark Hughes.

"You see the best players in the world, or those who have been the best in the world like Cavani, doing his work like that in the 94th minute, someone like Greenwood, who needs people who are mentors, good standards above him, who can coach him on the pitch, I just thought him and Marcus Rashford need another year of Cavani.

"He's been a really brilliant example. I was a little bit nervous of him coming in, because of [Radamel] Falcao, Alexis Sanchez, showcase signings. This one has been different. He's really applied himself brilliantly and has been a big help to Manchester United.

"He does the right things. The right movements. It's clockwork, that run across the defender, across the near post, the one you're always trying to get young strikers to do."

Cavani has scored eight times in all competitions since his arrival at Old Trafford, averaging out at a goal every 195.5 minutes – only Bruno Fernandes and Rashford have managed more.

However, the former Napoli and Paris Saint-Germain player has a better shot conversion rate (20.5 per cent) than both that pair, demonstrating his value to the side.

Solskjaer made clear after the away triumph at Spurs that he remains hopeful the 34-year-old will be part of his squad for the 2021-22 season.

"He knows my feelings; I know his feelings. He's not made up his mind yet," the United boss told the media.

"I understand that it's been a difficult year for everyone, but for a new lad who doesn't speak English, not to feel the English culture, to go see people, have friends around... it's in the back of your head if this is what you want, you know you can't have your family over.

"Fingers crossed, but if he decides that it's just this season, then we've been very, very fortunate to have him here."

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  • Maybe I'll get back on them now! – Ramsey takes friendly swipe at Bale after penalty miss Maybe I'll get back on them now! – Ramsey takes friendly swipe at Bale after penalty miss

    Aaron Ramsey quipped that he might get back on penalty duty for Wales after Gareth Bale's miss in the 2-0 win over Turkey.

    Wales put themselves onto the verge of the last 16 at Euro 2020 thanks to goals from Ramsey and Connor Roberts in Baku on Wednesday.

    Bale set up both goals and turned in a supreme performance overall, crafting a game-high five chances (a Euro record in a single game since at least 1980) and having five attempts himself – in total, there were 34 efforts throughout the match, the most of any game in the tournament so far.

    However, the Wales captain did have some making up to do after his 61st-minute spot-kick woe, with Bale slicing his attempt way over.

    Indeed, he became the first player to miss the goal frame entirely with a penalty at the Euros since Raul did so for Spain against France in 2000.

    Asked for his thoughts on the miss, Ramsey jokingly told BBC Sport: "He's tried to wobble it into the top bins. Maybe I'll get back on them now!"

    "It was a big moment but we didn't really panic, we stuck at it, we dug in and we left everything out there," the Juventus midfielder then reflected.

    "That's what we've built our success on over the last few years, is really working hard for each other, and we showed that tonight."

    Bale, meanwhile, took the miss in his stride, saying: "Yes, I missed the penalty but thought I showed good character to help the team, we needed that victory more than anything and to get a second goal at the end was the icing on the cake."

    Though his composure from the spot was found wanting, Bale was excellent, with his link-up play with Ramsey a joy to watch at times.

    They created a total of four chances for one another against Turkey, the most of any duo in a single game at Euro 2020, while at Euro 2016, the most by any pair in a single game was also Bale and Ramsey (six in a group match against Russia).

    Bale played in Ramsey twice in the opening stages, but the former Arsenal man, who tallied up a non-penalty expected goals (xG) figure of 1.64, failed to find the net until the third such opportunity.

    "He [Ramsey] got in a few times, we've always linked up well since our early days," Bale explained.

    A raking, pinpoint pass from Bale allowed Ramsey to beat Turkey's offside trap and, after taking the ball down expertly on his chest, he finished it off coolly.

    "It was a relief," Ramsey acknowledged. "I had two opportunities before that to score.

    "The first half was superb, to a man. We created so many opportunities and really dominated the play. Second half we showed character, dug in, and I thought we thoroughly deserved the win in the end."

    Only France (six) have won more matches across the last two European Championship finals combined than Wales (five), and Robert Page's team sit on four points from their first two Group A games.

    Third place is the lowest they can finish, and a spot in the last 16 looks well within reach given the four best third-placed sides progress.

    "We've given ourselves a brilliant opportunity now, we've still got a game to go, that was a really good point against Switzerland and it gave us the platform to go on and get the win," added Ramsey, who is also looking forward to a return to Italy, where he plies his trade domestically. 

    "It'll be nice [going to Italy]. I've got a few team-mates playing for the national team, so that'll be nice, but I'm representing my country and want to do everything to win that game as well. It'll be a good battle!"

  • Pressure on Hamilton ahead of crucial triple-header Pressure on Hamilton ahead of crucial triple-header

    Lewis Hamilton finds himself under significant pressure in the Formula One title race, so will be relieved to see the French Grand Prix next up in his schedule.

    Mercedes have had two miserable races in Monaco and Baku, so they enter the seventh event of the 2021 season trailing Red Bull by 26 points in the constructors' championship.

    Hamilton, meanwhile, is four points behind Max Verstappen – who was cruelly denied victory in Baku last time out – in the drivers' standings.

    The Briton is hoping to avoid missing the podium in three straight races for what would be the first time in the Hybrid Era, having finished seventh in Monaco and outside of the points in Azerbaijan.

    He and Toto Wolff are optimistic that a return to Circuit Paul Ricard, which the team boss described as "a more traditional circuit", will help them turn their campaign around.

    Hamilton triumphed there in 2018 and 2019, the first races in France after a nine-year absence from the F1 calendar. On both occasions Mercedes were dominant.

    Michael Schumacher holds the record with eight wins at the French Grand Prix, a race where this year Hamilton hopes to reboot his attempt to move above the German by claiming an eighth world title.

    Veteran Fernando Alonso was the last driver to win for a French team in this grand prix, doing it for Renault (now Alpine) 16 years ago in the 2005 season when he claimed his first championship.

    After Verstappen triumphed around the streets of Monaco and Sergio Perez claimed a blockbuster success in Baku, Red Bull now face a pivotal test of their title aspirations.

    If they emerge from three races in as many weeks in France and Austria (which hosts two) still in front, it will be an impressive and significant statement to Mercedes.

    LAST TIME OUT

    Remarkable late drama at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix saw Perez grab victory after Verstappen crashed out and title rival Hamilton incredibly finished 15th.

    Verstappen looked to be coasting to a second consecutive win and seventh straight podium – both career firsts, only to see a rear tyre blow out and end his race with five laps to go.

    A red flag followed Verstappen's crash, meaning a standing start with Perez ahead of Hamilton on the front row of the grid for an incredible two-lap sprint finish following the delay.

    In another twist, Hamilton – who had stressed on team radio the importance of staying cautious and having the long game in mind after Verstappen's retirement - looked to have seized an unlikely victory when he moved up the inside, only to make a mistake with his brake settings that saw him career off the circuit.

    As well as Perez, Sebastian Vettel and Pierre Gasly were the beneficiaries with impressive podium finishes for Aston Martin and AlphaTauri respectively.

    Charles Leclerc, who had claimed pole for the second straight race, had to settle for fourth, while Valtteri Bottas was 12th as his desperately disappointing campaign continued.

    WHAT TO LOOK OUT FOR IN FRANCE

    All eyes are on how Mercedes respond as they find themselves in a position they are not used to, as Red Bull relish their recent run and look to press home their advantage.

    Hamilton missed a chance to reclaim the lead from Verstappen in Azerbaijan, but will like his chances to do so as he gets another opportunity at Le Castellet.

    Bottas' woes this season have not all been his fault – he was unfortunate in Monaco – but he sits sixth in the standings and needs an immediate turnaround to save his Mercedes future.

    Home hope Gasly comes into the race on form, with five straight points finishes and a podium in Baku, while another French driver – Esteban Ocon – is on a high having just signed a new deal with Alpine.

    After watching Leclerc impress to claim back-to-back poles for a resurgent Ferrari, Carlos Sainz will race for the 125th time looking to end a run that has seen him appear in the most grands prix without winning or taking pole of any active driver. He has scored points in both his previous France races, while Leclerc made the podium in 2019.

    TOP FIVE OPTA STATS

    Record in sight – Mercedes will again attempt to equal Ferrari as the team to have recorded the most one-twos in F1 qualifying ever (80). 

    A first for Red Bull – Christian Horner's team come to this grand prix after winning two races in a row with a different driver for the first time in the Hybrid Era.

    Perez pace – The Mexican is enjoying his best career streak of top-five finishes, having had four in a row including his Azerbaijan win.  

    History made - Gasly was the first French driver to score a point in a French GP in this century when he came 10th in 2019, the first since the Jean Alesi finished fifth in 1997 at Magny-Cours. 

    Poor conversion - Leclerc has recorded only two wins out of the nine pole positions in his F1 career (22.2%). If the Monegasque is on pole without claiming victory in this race, only Rene Arnoux (11.1%) and David Coulthard (16.7%) will have a lower ratio of victories from pole of drivers to have at least 10.

    CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS

    Drivers

    1. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) – 105
    2. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) – 101
    3. Sergio Perez (Red Bull) – 69
    4. Lando Norris (McLaren) – 66
    5. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) – 52

    Constructors

    1. Red Bull – 174
    2. Mercedes – 148
    3. Ferrari – 94
    4. McLaren – 92
    5. AlphaTauri – 39

  • Turkey 0-2 Wales: Bale misses penalty but sets up both goals in Group A thriller Turkey 0-2 Wales: Bale misses penalty but sets up both goals in Group A thriller

    Wales are on the brink of the Euro 2020 knockout stages after Gareth Bale set up two goals, either side of a dismal penalty miss, to help Robert Page's team to a 2-0 win over Turkey.

    Bale, who provided a sublime assist for Aaron Ramsey to break the deadlock after 42 minutes in Baku, sliced way over from 12 yards with just over an hour played, wasting the chance to put Wales clear.

    Yet the Euro 2016 semi-finalists overcame the setback, holding their nerve in defence before Bale atoned with another fantastic assist, this time for Connor Roberts to score with the last kick of the game.

    It took Wales, temporarily at least, top of Group A, and with the four best third-placed teams progressing into the last 16, they look well placed to make the knockouts.

    Ramsey's first chance came in the sixth minute, the Juventus midfielder electing to shoot rather than square to the unmarked Kieffer Moore, with Ugurcan Cakir pulling off a fine save at his near post. 

    Having been found brilliantly by Bale, Ramsey squandered another golden opportunity in the 24th minute, blazing over when one-on-one with Cakir. 

    Yet amid mounting Turkey pressure, it proved third time lucky for Ramsey. Bale was the architect with another sensational pass over the defence which the former Arsenal man controlled with his chest before slotting into the bottom-left corner. 

    Bale would have gone from provider to scorer had a venomous effort had enough dip to drop under the crossbar, though Wales should have been pegged back moments later. 

    A corner was flicked onto Burak Yilmaz, whose acrobatic attempt flashed over from close range. 

    Turkey should have been made to pay, but Bale – having drawn a clumsy tackle from Zeki Celik – sent his spot-kick soaring over. 

    Danny Ward made a stunning save to deny Merih Demiral and Wales made it count – Bale driving in from a last-minute corner to tee up Roberts, who prodded home to put the last 16 firmly within reach.

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