Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has explained substituting Mason Greenwood for Edinson Cavani against Southampton on Sunday. The England international missed some big chances before making way. Cavani had no such issues, however, with the Uruguay international the star of the show at St Mary’s.
United found themselves trailing 2-0 to Southampton at half time, with Jan Badnarik and James Ward-Prowse propelling the hosts into the lead.
However, Solskjaer then changed things up – with his decisions paying off.
Bruno Fernandes scored for United, his sixth goal from his last four outings across all competitions, with Cavani providing the assist.
The 33-year-old then drew the Red Devils level with a flying header, getting on the end of a deflected Fernandes effort to find the net.
And he struck at the death to give his side all three points, with his header sailing past Alex McCarthy to spark wild scenes of celebration.
Cavani made the headlines as a result and it was a disappointing match for Greenwood, who paid the price for his wastefulness in front of goal by making way.
And, speaking after the match, Solskjaer insisted his decision to take the England international off for Cavani was merely tactical.
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“When you’re 2-0 down, as you said, I felt we played really well, we created big moments, big chances,” Solskjaer said. “But we didn’t really have that killer instinct.
“Of course they have the quality of [James] Ward-Prowse, which is always difficult to defend against, so coming in at half-time we had to make changes.
“You can call it tactical. David [De Gea] got injured and, with Ed, we just wanted him on.
“And it was a matter of fitness, to keep the likes of Donny [van de Beek] on the pitch, Fred and Nemanja [Matic] in midfield.
“I thought that was going to be important and it was about taking one of the forwards off and we made the decision that we made.”
Solskjaer also revealed United players were confident of a comeback at half time, despite being two goals down.
“Honestly, we spoke about it at half-time,” said the Norwegian.
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“We knew that if we score the next goal we would go on to win the game. We felt that in the game.
“It is strange because we were 2-0 down at half-time against a team that is playing really well and has a great balance in the team, and we know what threats they have, but we gave them two soft goals really – goals which we knew they were a threat from.
“We knew which set-plays they were going to run and we gave it to them. We knew that James [Ward-Prowse] is a great free-kick taker and we gave them a soft free-kick.
“We created chances in the first half. There were probably 10 or 15 minutes in the first half when we lost our shape a little bit and started chasing the game a bit too much, and too early, but in the second half I knew that the next goal would win the game.
“We spoke as a back four at half-time and I said to them we couldn’t concede again. If we conceded again the game was over.
“I knew from our attacking lads on the pitch – Rash, Bruno, Edinson coming on – I knew we had goals in the team. It was vitally important we didn’t concede a third goal and I felt the next goal would go on to win the game.”
Solskjaer hailed Cavani for what he’s brought to the club so far, both on and off the field of play.
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“Yeah, I am so pleased for him,” he said.
“He has been without a club for a few months so he is coming in and catching up. He is a great professional, he is great to have around the place, he is great in the dressing room and I think you saw today what he brings to the club.
“His movement when the ball is wide is to a level that not many strikers can reach.
“He is always on the move, always getting across people and that’s why he has always scored goals.
“So if there are any strikers out here wanting to learn and watch, I am sure they are studying his movement and what he has done in his career.
“He is great for our strikers to learn from him in training, because he is a nightmare to mark in training as well. Every day he is making those runs across you and we have seen today his movement is very, very good.”
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