Cavani, 34, joined the club on a free transfer in October after leaving Ligue 1 champions Paris Saint-Germain in the summer, and has scored seven goals in 24 appearances this term.
The Uruguayan has brought much-needed goalscoring nous to an attacking unit that already consisted of Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford and youngster Mason Greenwood, and former Wales star Hughes praised Cavani as a forward who ‘makes things happen around him’.
Mark Hughes has urged Manchester United to sign a striker, after claiming they signed ‘outstanding’ Edinson Cavani five years too late
Cavani joined the likes of Anthony Martial at United after leaving PSG last summer
But the 57-year-old believes he would have been the ideal signing five years ago, and with none of his fellow attackers willing to play down the middle, called on Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to find a younger alternative in the summer.
‘United have got good quality at the top end of the pitch,’ Hughes told Sky Sports’ Monday Night Football. ‘Rashford and Greenwood are highly thought of, but maybe they need Cavani five years ago when he was in his pomp.
‘They probably got him at the wrong time, but he is still an outstanding centre forward. When I see him playing in this team I think he gives them more focus, and they have confidence of giving the ball to his feet and things happen around him.
‘The reality is, the other players I have mentioned, Martial included, they want to play in any other position than down the middle.
Martial, Marcus Rashford and Mason Greenwood have failed to make the central striker position their own
‘Rashford and Martial would prefer to be on the left-hand side, Greenwood prefers the right-hand side, whereas they have all been tried down the middle but you get the sense than none of them want to be there.
‘They need someone with that quality to play down the middle to give them that focus.
Asked if Tottenham striker Harry Kane or Borussia Dortmund star Erling Haaland represent possible solutions, Hughes added: ‘They are certainly the type of player they need to be in market for.
‘How much ability they will have in the market to be able to go and attract those players though, who knows because there are lots of clubs that will covet them.’
And Hughes believes Cavani’s age and the lack of other options should force United’s hand
The comments came after United recorded a fourth straight goalless draw against a so-called ‘Top Six’ rival following their stalemate against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.
Their first match against such a rival this season ended in 6-1 hammering at Old Trafford at the hands of Jose Mourinho’s Spurs, and while praising Solskjaer for increasing their resilience at the back ever since, the former Manchester City boss admitted it was ‘debatable’ whether the fresh approach has made them better.
‘Look at first result [6-1 defeat by Spurs], that tells you a little bit of the story, they were not going to allow that type of result again,’ Hughes added.
Hughes said Erling Haaland and Harry Kane should be the sort of player the club look at
‘They have addressed that, they have been more solid, they have gone that way. That is debatable [if they have been better].
‘You need to have a base to be nice and solid and to have that platform to give players ahead of you the freedom and confidence that even if we do overstretch we still have that basis to make sure the back door is shut.
‘It is an obvious amount of work that has been done on training ground, to go from a 6-1 defeat at home to addressing that, clearly that work is coming to fruition, but there is that balance.
‘Do you go to the defensive work on that to the nth degree and forget the other end of the pitch? So it is always a balance of what you prioritise.’
Hughes also praised Ole Gunnar Solskjaer for making United more solid since losing to Spurs