Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has backed Edinson Cavani to put his racism controversy to one side and focus on facing his old club Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League on Wednesday night.
The build-up to the Group H game at Old Trafford has been overshadowed by Cavani’s use of the word ‘negrito’ in a social media post to a friend after his match-winning performance at Southampton on Sunday.
The Uruguay star deleted the message once he was made aware that it is inappropriate in this country and has also apologised, but the FA are investigating and have asked Cavani for his observations before they decide their next move.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer (centre) has backed striker Edinson Cavani (right) amid his racism storm
Cavani apologised after replying ‘Gracias negrito’ to a friend on Instagram on Sunday night
Solskjaer admits the issue may be weighing on Cavani’s mind but believes PSG’s all-time top scorer will be determined to play against the French champions.
‘Edinson is ready to play,’ said the United manager. ‘It’s special for him to play against PSG, his old club where he’s the top scorer, so that will affect him mentally. From knowing him, that will give him energy. He is so professional and experienced.
‘He will work on his mindset today and tomorrow to be ready for the game, which goes the same to the FA (issue). He’s learned a lesson.’
Solskjaer reiterated United’s backing for their player but welcomed the FA’s stance, saying it’s important to make everyone aware of the fight against racism.
He added: ‘We’ve communicated with Edinson and he’s really deeply sorry for the mistake he’s made.
‘There was no malicious intent at all, just an affectionate greeting to a friend of his. But we explained to him. He’s been asked by the FA and of, course, he’ll co-operate with them, and we’ll support him.
‘It’s important the FA have asked him to explain and it’s out there for everyone to see because we want to be in the fight against discrimination with everyone.
‘It’s one of those unfortunate situations where he’s just come into the country. I saw Gary (Neville) said something on all players coming from different cultures should be educated, and Edinson has learned the hard way.’
Solskjaer insisted there was no malicious intent from Cavani, who now awaits his fate by the FA
Solskjaer confirmed Cavani’s explanation has been requested by English football’s governing body.
Cavani’s response is expected before the end of the week though there is also scope for the period allowed for him to give his version of events to be extended.
He could receive a minimum three-game ban if the FA decide his message was in breach of their rules after updating their sanctions for discriminatory behaviour ahead of this season.
The Cavani incident is set to lead to renewed calls for more routine education for players arriving from overseas, a move anti-discrimination organisation Kick It Out and the PFA have long been advocating for.
The FA, PFA and KIO all deliver education and equality and diversity training to clubs but the Cavani case has highlighted again issues relating to cultural differences which can land players in hot water.
The post remained on Cavani’s Instagram account for some time before it was deleted
CAVANI AND MANCHESTER UNITED’S STATEMENTS
‘The message I posted after the match on Sunday was intended as an affectionate greeting to a friend, thanking him for his congratulations after the game.
‘The last thing I wanted to do was cause offence to anyone. I am completely opposed to racism and deleted the message as soon as it was explained that it can be interpreted differently.
‘I would like to sincerely apologise for this.’
‘It is clear to us that there was absolutely no malicious intent behind Edinson’s message and he deleted it as soon as he was informed that it could be misconstrued.
‘Edinson has issued an apology for any unintentional offence caused. Manchester United and all of our players are fully committed to the fight against racism.’
Meanwhile, Solskjaer praised the former Napoli player for the impact he has had since joining United as a free agent on deadline day – and was even able to raise a smile by criticising Cavani’s parking at the club’s training ground.
‘He’s an absolute top pro,’ said Solskjaer. ‘I’ve not been able to get to know him really closely because of the language barrier. We have to speak through someone else.
‘But he is so professional, so meticulous, everything he does he does with the intention of being the best footballer.
‘He’s a good team-mate, a good team player, and I’ve been impressed with everything apart from his parking! He parks too closely to the other players and staff sometimes.’
Reminded that he praised Cavani’s Viking spirit before a game several years ago, the Norwegian added: ‘We never give in, us Vikings. We’ve got the right attitude and right mentality.
David de Gea is in contention for the PSG game despite coming off with a knock on Sunday
‘That was maybe not fair to Edinson but it was a compliment. I always look at players’ mentality and ability to play and do well even though you don’t have a perfect day.
‘You know he’s got talent. I could have spoken about predatory instincts but what I saw from him was ability to work for the team and be a team player.
‘We’ve seen it here from the work-rate he puts down. He’s top of the tree for running stats in the Premier League and he’s 33, which says everything about his mentality.’
Solskjaer confirmed that goalkeeper David de Gea trained on Tuesday and is available after going off with a knock at Southampton as United look to secure the point that would confirm their progress to the knockout stage.
‘The players all want to be there as you would expect when the Champions League nights come and floodlights are on, even though unfortunately the fans are not there,’ he said.
‘The training group today was a massive one and everyone has held their hand up and is available for selection.’