Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has ruled Edinson Cavani out of the Europa League clash with Real Sociedad due to a fresh muscle injury.
Cavani last featured for the Red Devils during the 1-1 draw at struggling West Brom in the Premier League on Sunday and was expected to be fit to face Sociedad on Thursday night after playing the entire game.
The 33-year-old has become one of Solskjaer’s most trusted and consistent performers over the past few months, which is evident because he has started four of their past five Premier League fixtures with two goals to show for his four starts.
Drawing with Sam Allardyce’s side ensured the Red Devils have now conceded 31 goals in the top flight; out of all their closest rivals, only Merseyside clubs Liverpool and Everton have conceded more so far this season.
“With Paul, he’s recovering well,” said Solskjaer. “He’s starting the treatment and will still be a few weeks, he won’t be playing in February, that’s for sure. So still a few weeks until we see Paul, definitely.
“Apart from that, we have a couple of doubtful ones [to see] if they’ll be fit enough. Anthony and Scott, we’ll have to check them tomorrow. Edinson and Donny definitely not travelling.”
The manager has now a decision to make over who will lead the line in what is sure to be a tough test against the two-time La Liga champions.
At his best, when he is fully fit and firing on all cylinders, Anthony Martial is still one of the club’s best options through the middle, having finished the 2019/20 season as the club’s top scorer with 23 goals in all competitions.
However, that is not the case now, and it remains to be seen whether the Frenchman will keep his place in the starting line-up given his poor run of form this season.
Martial started on the left wing against West Brom on Sunday but struggled to make much of an impression and did little to justify his selection in the first place, before being forced to make way for Mason Greenwood in the second half.
Despite his best efforts, the 25-year-old has been unable to replicate the form that saw him score 23 goals last term, as he took just 40 touches – which was at least 20 fewer than Marcus Rashford, per SofaScore.
He couldn’t complete a single successful dribble and also failed to register a single shot in the entire game, let alone a shot on target, while second-half substitute Greenwood managed at least one during his brief cameo off the bench.
Solskjaer also revealed to reporters ahead of kick-off that there are fitness concerns over Martial, so there’s no guarantee he’s involved from the off tonight, only increasing the struggle on the United boss to find a solution.
Greenwood appeared alongside Solskjaer in the pre-match press conference, which implies fans can expect to see him return to the starting XI against Sociedad tonight.
Admittedly, the 19-year-old himself has struggled in recent weeks, with just one goal in his past 18 Premier League appearances. But he may have a key part to play if Solskjaer can get the best out of him regularly.
Whether Greenwood can step up and be the answer in Cavani’s, and potentially Martial’s, absence remains to be seen. Clearly, though, it’s an unwanted headache to have for such a crucial encounter.
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