After a saga spanning much of the transfer window, Manchester United have finally completed the signing of Ajax’s Antony, for around £90m.
Original article published 1 September 2022
It’s an eye-watering fee for a player United had valued at around half that earlier in the summer, but the Old Trafford side's inconsistent start to the season has forced their hand somewhat.
For a number of years, United’s attack has looked imbalanced, with the likes of Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial sharing the role of right-footed left-winger, with Jesse Lingard flitting between a more central and wide right role, but even he was right footed, denying him the opportunity to cut inside, and it's hoped Antony can finally solve that.
Jadon Sancho was signed on the back of three superb seasons at Dortmund, where he largely played on the right, but most of his better performances for United came when he was deployed on the left, only adding to United’s problems.
It gives manager Erik ten Hag a fresh headache, in that he’s now got three players capable of playing in the same position, though with United’s lack of centre-forwards, Martial is likely to be used as the primary number 9, with Rashford also capable of playing up top.
If you’ve seen the compilations, you’ll have worked out that Antony is an exciting player if nothing else. While he’s very one-footed, he has the turn of pace to take the ball down the line and beat a man that way rather than coming inside.
He will occupy wider areas than Jadon Sancho, who often prefers to link up with players in the half spaces, and has more pace than the former Dortmund man, meaning that while he’d prefer to cut inside and whip crosses and shots in towards the far post, he’ll also have the option of taking the ball down the line onto his right foot.
bet365 have priced up the 22-year-old at 100/1 for PFA Player of the Year. A big ask, no doubt, but if Manchester United’s fortunes do take a big turn in the right direction, Antony may well be the catalyst for that.
Detractors have pointed out that Antony’s goal tally of eight last season is simply nowhere near the level of what you’d expect of a £90m player, especially coming from an Eredivisie side who often had 70% of possession and scored more than 90 goals, but Antony did miss the last couple of months of the season with injury, and his goals per 90 across his two seasons in Amsterdam comes in at 0.44, better than that achieved last season by the likes of Phil Foden, Gabriel Jesus and Bukayo Saka.
So how many will he score this season? Well United fans will be excited at the prospect of a skilful, pacey, left-footed winger finally arriving, and while it will take a few months for the United squad to get fully up to speed with Ten Hag’s methods, Antony should make that easier, and goals should come sooner rather than later.
Once he’s up and running there’s no reason to think Antony wouldn’t hit double figures in the league for the Red Devils this season, which bet365 have priced up at 8/11.
It may be that Antony plays the role of creator more than scorer, which may hinder him from reaching 15 (6/1) or 20+ goals (33/1), but most importantly, it will provide more balance and pace to United’s attack, making them more of a well-rounded threat in their quest for Champions League football.