Cavani's Man Utd success doesn't surprise Forlan ahead of Europa League final

By Sports Desk May 24, 2021

Edinson Cavani's success at Manchester United has not come as a surprise to former Red Devils and Uruguay forward Diego Forlan.

Cavani has starred since joining United on a free transfer from Ligue 1 giants Paris Saint-Germain at the start of the 2020-21 season – the veteran's exploits resulting in a one-year contract extension.

The 34-year-old has scored 16 goals across all competitions this term – above his expected goals (xG) of 13.6 – as United prepare for Wednesday's Europa League final against Villarreal, having finished runners-up to Manchester City in the Premier League.

Cavani boasts a 128.9 minutes-to-goal ratio in 2020-21 – the best mark among his United team-mates, ahead of Bruno Fernandes (159.3), Marcus Rashford (192.1) and Mason Greenwood (254.0).

Forlan, who played alongside Cavani for Uruguay, hailed the in-form United star.

"Edinson Cavani is a great player, I know him. We played alongside each other for many years in the national team, I am really happy for him," Forlan said.

"Surprised? No. No, because I know his capacity and the way he plays. He is a very professional athlete, a good guy.

"So I am not surprised, I knew that he would be the player that he is now, and I am really happy for him that he will continue for one year more [at United]."

Cavani has scored five goals and provided two assists in only 247 minutes of Europa League action this season, averaging either a goal or an assist every 35 minutes – the best return of any player with at least 200 minutes played in the competition this campaign.

He could become the third player aged 34 or above to score in a major European final for an English club, after Gary McAllister (36) for Liverpool in the UEFA Cup final against Deportivo Alaves in 2000-01 and Didier Drogba (34) for Chelsea in the Champions League decider versus Bayern Munich in 2011-12.

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  • Football’s lawmakers set to ditch blue cards from sin bin trials after furore Football’s lawmakers set to ditch blue cards from sin bin trials after furore

    Blue cards are set to be dropped from sin bin trials planned by football’s lawmakers. the PA news agency understands.

    The cards were set to be unveiled as the method used to signal a temporary dismissal in trial protocols originally scheduled for publication on February 9, a move which would have marked the biggest change in managing player discipline in the professional game since the introduction of red and yellow cards for the 1970 World Cup.

    However, there was a largely negative reaction when reports about blue cards surfaced on the eve of publication, and the International Football Association Board, which sets the game’s laws, opted to delay publication of the protocol.

    The cards are now set to be scrapped following further talks between IFAB’s directors on the eve of the organisation’s annual general meeting in Loch Lomond, PA understands.

    The trial itself has not been revoked, but it is expected it will take place at a much lower footballing level than was anticipated by the original February 9 protocol, which was set to encourage applications from all but the very top-level competitions.

    The Football Association, one of the five bodies which makes up the IFAB, was understood to have been interested in running a trial in the men’s and women’s FA Cups in the future, before the furore around blue cards.

    There is also set to be further talks on Saturday about whether any sin bin trial should include tactical fouls, as well as dissent. Under the original protocol, all players on the pitch, including goalkeepers, can be temporarily dismissed.

    Sin bin trials were one of four protocols set for publication last month before the blue card story broke.

    The IFAB is also seeking to trial allowing referees the option of creating a ‘captain-only zone’ around them when they feel threatened or intimidated, and a trial where referees can send teams to their respective penalty areas to cool off in the event of mass confrontations.

    All of these, including the sin bin protocols, are ultimately intended to improve player behaviour at higher levels, something FIFA president Gianni Infantino has said is essential to set the right example to young players and ensure people still feel safe, and encouraged, to be referees.

    Another trial that had been set for publication on February 9 concerned how long goalkeepers can handle the ball, and how play should restart when they hold on too long.

    Currently keepers can hold on for six seconds and anything over that is supposed to be penalised with an indirect free-kick, but lawmakers are concerned this is not being properly enforced which is why a trial has been developed.

    The management of head injuries is also on the AGM agenda.

    The World Leagues Forum and world players’ union FIFPRO have again written to the IFAB asking for permission to trial temporary concussion substitutes, something which was again rejected at last year’s AGM in London.

    The player union and domestic league in Scotland, this year’s host nation for the AGM, are among those seeking the right to conduct such a trial.

    “From our perspective, we have a responsibility to those former players who are sadly living with dementia,” PFA Scotland chief executive Fraser Wishart said.

    “But we also have to take responsibility as a game – whether it’s the unions, leagues, the government bodies – for current players and future players, to minimise the chances, as much as we possibly can, of players getting dementia. We’re involved in this initiative because we do feel that temporary concussion subs are the next step forward.”

    Trials of permanent concussion substitutes were first approved by the IFAB in December 2020.

  • I will shine: Andre Onana regaining confidence after early struggles at Man Utd I will shine: Andre Onana regaining confidence after early struggles at Man Utd

    Andre Onana believes he has turned the corner off the pitch after a mentally “difficult time” during his start to life at Manchester United.

    Having joined in the summer from Inter Milan in a deal that could reach £47.2million, a string of errors quickly led pressure and scrutiny to mount on the 27-year-old shot-stopper.

    Onana became the butt of jokes but has knuckled down and is starting to become the confident, ball-playing goalkeeper Erik ten Hag and United wanted.

     

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    “I already know the goalkeeper that I am,” the Cameroon international said. “It took me six months or seven months not to play good, just to feel good.

    “It was a difficult time for me. Now I’m feeling a bit better because everything was new, it was difficult for me to feel at home because of so many reasons, a new country.

    “But now I’m feeling good. I don’t want to talk about my performance because I know the goalkeeper I am and I have done much more than what I just did.

    “So, for me, the most important thing is to be set, to be happy and I will shine.”

    Onana spoke openly about his challenging start to life in England ahead of facing rivals Manchester City, who he produced a fantastic display against as Inter narrowly lost June’s Champions League final.

    “I don’t think (I was beating myself up too much after errors), but it was just moments,” the United goalkeeper said.

    “Sometimes you are facing difficult situations and I had a difficult six or seven months just feeling good, not playing good, because I think I didn’t start to play good (yet).

    “It was just something strange, I don’t know. It was also a good time for me to learn because I learned a lot at that time.

    “Playing in the final of the Champions League and being knocked out in the first stage after a few months, it was a big lesson for me.

    “Now I think I have everything on my back, learn it and move on, try to be happy. That is the most important thing.”

    Onana’s errors during United’s European exit were costly, but his performances have since improved markedly and he believes he is now on an upward curve.

    “Yeah, I think I had a turning point, but not on the pitch because, like I said, more mental because everything was different,” he said.

    “Of course, I moved last season from Amsterdam to Milan, but that adaptation was quite easy.

    “But it took me seven, eight months here. It was just time to learn and just go game by game. I hope we will end on top.”

    Onana produced another solid display as United kept hopes alive of ending a bumpy campaign with silverware by beating Nottingham Forest 1-0 in the FA Cup fifth round.

    How Ten Hag’s men could do with another clean sheet away to their treble-winning rivals on Sunday, when the goalkeeper wants to continue to repay the faith shown in him.

     

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    “My team-mates, my players, they always reminded me who I am and the goalkeeper I am and why I came to this club,” Onana said.

    “They told me ‘Andre, it took some players two years, others six months, for others no time, and you have that personality to turn the situation (around)’.

    “They always believed in me, they told me from the beginning, ‘Andre, listen, the quality is there, it’s just a matter of time.’

    “I am very happy, especially with the supporters, the fans. They were nice with me even in difficult periods and I’m very thankful. I can only thank them.

    “I think everything is behind me. Now we have to move on and I think together a great time will come. We just have to do the right things and I think the future will be brilliant for all of us.”

  • Blue cards and sin bin trials set for further discussion by football’s lawmakers Blue cards and sin bin trials set for further discussion by football’s lawmakers

    Sin bin trials featuring blue cards will be the subject of further discussion by the game’s lawmakers on Friday and Saturday.

    The sin bin protocols, which would involve players being dismissed for 10 minutes for dissent and tactical fouls, had been signed off by the directors of the International Football Association Board (IFAB) and were ready for publication on February 9, at which point competitions would have been able to apply to conduct a trial.

    However, the plug was pulled on publication that morning following media reports about blue cards the previous day.

    FIFA issued a statement on the evening of February 8 saying the reports concerning a blue card at elite levels of football were “incorrect and premature”.

    “Any such trials, if implemented, should be limited to testing in a responsible manner at lower levels, a position that FIFA intends to reiterate when this agenda item is discussed at the IFAB AGM on March 2,” the statement concluded.

    Sin bins have already been tested successfully in grassroots and youth football, but the PA news agency understands the intention of the protocols which were pulled at the last minute had been to test them at much higher levels, with the only exception being senior national team competitions and the highest domestic league in any country, where a team had the ability to qualify for a continental competition.

    The idea had been that the protocols could be introduced to the very top level once refined. All players on the pitch, including goalkeepers, could be sent to the sin bin under the original protocol, PA understands, but substitutes and coaching staff could not be.

    Fouls such as the cynical tug by Italy defender Giorgio Chiellini on England’s Bukayo Saka in the Euro 2020 final was set to be a sin bin offence within one of the protocols, PA understands.

    FIFA’s statement last month contrasted with comments from the chairman of its referees committee Pierluigi Collina at the IFAB annual business meeting last November.

    The Italian said at the time: “The trial was very successful in a grassroots competition. Now we are talking of a higher level, very probably professional or even high professional football.

    “We need to draft something that works or is worthy for top football.”

    The Football Association, one of the five bodies which makes up the IFAB, was understood to have been interested in running a trial in the men’s and women’s FA Cups in the future.

    It is not clear whether the sin bin trial protocols will be published in the same format planned on February 9 following Saturday’s annual general meeting at Loch Lomond, but pitched at lower-level competitions than originally intended, or whether the protocols themselves will be reworked and publication delayed beyond this weekend.

    A first meeting is due to take place on Friday evening ahead of the AGM itself on Saturday morning.

    The introduction of sin bin trials and the blue card at any level of the professional game would mark the biggest single shift in player discipline since the introduction of red and yellow cards for the 1970 World Cup in Mexico.

    The IFAB had also been poised to publish details of a trial which gave referees the option of creating a ‘captain-only zone’ around them when they felt threatened or intimidated, and one giving the referee the option to send teams to a cooling-off area in the event of mass confrontations.

    All of these had the intention of improving player behaviour, something FIFA president Gianni Infantino has said is essential to set the right example to young players and ensure people still feel safe, and encouraged, to be referees.

    Another trial that had been set for publication on February 9 concerned how long goalkeepers can handle the ball, and how play should restart when they hold on too long.

    Currently keepers can hold on for six seconds and anything over that is supposed to be penalised with an indirect free-kick, but lawmakers are concerned this is not being properly enforced.

    The management of head injuries is also on the AGM agenda.

    The World Leagues Forum and world players’ union FIFPRO have again written to the IFAB asking for permission to trial temporary concussion substitutes, something which was again rejected at last year’s AGM in London.

    The player union and domestic league in Scotland, this year’s host nation, are among those seeking the right to conduct such a trial.

    “From our perspective, we have a responsibility to those former players who are sadly living with dementia,” PFA Scotland chief executive Fraser Wishart said.

    “But we also have to take responsibility as a game – whether it’s the unions, leagues, the government bodies – for current players and future players, to minimise the chances, as much as we possibly can, of players getting dementia. We’re involved in this initiative because we do feel that temporary concussion subs are the next step forward.”

    Trials of permanent concussion substitutes were first approved by the IFAB in December 2020.

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