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paris reunion United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer ready to unleash Edinson Cavani against former club PSG after racism storm

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Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has given his backing to Edinson Cavani

Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has given his backing to Edinson Cavani

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Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has given his backing to Edinson Cavani

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has backed Edinson Cavani to put his to racism controversy to one side as the Manchester United striker prepares to face former club Paris Saint-Germain in what already promised to be a highly charged Champions League reunion at Old Trafford tonight.

Solskjaer has insisted there was no “malicious intent” from Cavani over his contentious “negrito” remark in a social media post to a friend after his match-winning turn in Sunday’s dramatic 3-2 comeback win over Southampton, when he came off the bench to assist Bruno Fernandes’ goal and score twice.

But the incident has overshadowed the build-up to the Group H tie at Old Trafford, where a point will be enough to secure United’s qualification for the knockout stages with a game to spare.

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Edinson Cavani celebrates his winner against Southampton

Edinson Cavani celebrates his winner against Southampton

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Edinson Cavani celebrates his winner against Southampton

Cavani had reposted a message from a friend on Instagram along with the words “Gracias negrito”, which translates as “Thanks, little black”, only to delete the post after being informed that it was inappropriate in this country and issue an apology.

The Football Association have asked Cavani to explain why he used the word and the striker could face a minimum three-match ban if he is charged and found guilty of using discriminatory or racist language on social media.

Solskjaer acknowledged that the issue may be playing on Cavani’s mind going into the game against the French champions, whom the Uruguayan left in June after seven years, during which time he became the club’s all-time record scorer with 200 goals.

But the United manager, satisfied that the term was meant in an affectionate context and carried no malicious undertones, believes the 33-year-old is strong enough not to allow it to affect his focus.

“Edinson is ready to play,” Solskjaer said. “Of course it’s special for him to play at PSG his own club where he is the top scorer so that will effect him mentally.

“From knowing him, I think that will give him energy and he will be ready.

“He is so professional, experienced and he will work on his mindset today and tomorrow to be ready for the game.

“He’s learnt a lesson. It might affect him but he’ll have to put it to one side when the game’s on and the best players can put problems or the other thoughts away for a while and perform when they have to.

“We’ve communicated with Edinson and he’s deeply sorry for the mistake he made. There was no malicious intent at all, it was just an affectionate greeting to a friend of his. We explained to him [why it was inappropriate] and he’s been asked by the FA to explain so, of course, he will co-operate with them and we will support him.”

Solskjaer - who said goalkeeper David De Gea was available despite being substituted with a knee injury against Southamption – stressed that United were firmly opposed to all forms of discrimination and backed calls for more routine education for players arriving from overseas.

“I think so, I saw Gary [Neville] said something on how all players coming from different cultures should be educated,” he said. “I’m sure Edinson has learnt the hard way.

“It’s one of those unfortunate situations where he’s just come into the country and in Uruguay it’s used in a different way than what we have.

“We will support him but we support the FA. It’s important that 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.”

Cavani – who has scored three goals in the past four games – missed United’s 2-1 win against PSG at the Parc des Princes in October having only just finished a period of self-isolation following his deadline day free transfer to Old Trafford.

Solskjaer said he had been impressed by Cavani’s professionalism since joining United, if not the player’s parking skills. “A top professional,” Solskjaer said.

“I’ve not been able to get to know him really really closely because of the language barrier so we have to talk through someone else but he’s so professional and so meticulous.

“Everything he does he does with the intention to be the best footballer he can be.

“He is a very good teammate, a team player, I’ve been impressed by his attention to everything – apart from his parking. he’s parking too close to some of the players and the coaching staff!”.

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