Nobody would have anticipated Manchester United to spend so much money on another right-winger little over a year after buying Jadon Sancho for £72.9 million in July 2021.
Yet, upon his appointment as manager, Erik ten Hag was always going to want to put his own stamp on the group he inherited. Ten Hag raided previous club Ajax for center-back Lisandro Martinez at the end of July, then just over a month later, he brought Antony to Old Trafford for an eye-watering £85.5 million fee.
Ten Hag’s top objective this summer was to bolster United’s right-wing options and bring a left-footed presence to that side of the ball. United overpaid for the 23-year-old, and his performances so far this season have reflected that.
Although established himself as Ten Hag’s first-choice right-winger, he has struggled to justify such a high fee thus far. He has struggled with consistency, with only seven goals and one assist in 30 games.
Nonetheless, he is only 23 years old and is adjusting to a new league, a new club, and a completely new way of life. Ten Hag has taken him under his wing and will continue to support him. Antony is more of a project for United’s manager.
Yet, if he continues to struggle and stutter, failing to provide the kind of consistency expected of him, the Brazil international will be aware that others will be waiting to pounce on a chance. The Reds’ roster is flooded with right-wing possibilities, and Ten Hag faces the difficult chore of cleaning out one section of the roster while attempting to keep everyone happy.
When Anthony Elanga, Facundo Pellistri, Sancho, Antony, and Amad return from their season-long loan term at Sunderland, United will have five realistic prospects vying for the right-wing spot: Anthony Elanga, Facundo Pellistri, Sancho, Antony, and Amad. Marcus Rashford and Alejandro Garnacho can also play on that side of the field, although they have shown that they are more suited to playing on the left.
Rashford’s outstanding play this season has cemented his place as Manchester United’s first-choice left winger. Garnacho is undoubtedly his most formidable opponent and has filled in for him on several occasions this season.
Although being signed to play on the opposite side, Sancho has produced his greatest football in United colors on the left wing, but he faces an almost impossible battle in dislodging Rashford from Ten Hag’s strongest XI. It implies that, while he has recently played through the middle, his best chance of winning regular games at Old Trafford is on the right.
That, of course, means competing with Antony for a starting spot week in and week out. And when Elanga, Pellistri, and Amad are factored in, four players are at risk of being dissatisfied due to a lack of game time.
Everyone agrees that United must trim that area of the roster this summer. The right-wing position is overcrowded, and keeping five players satisfied is impossible. The Manchester Evening News reported earlier this month that the Reds are willing to let two forwards leave on loan in the summer, one of whom is Pellistri.
The Uruguayan, who made his entire debut for United in a 1-0 win against Real Betis about a fortnight ago, has shown plenty of hopeful indications when given opportunities, but the Reds are not yet at a point where they can offer him regular games, at least not at a rate he would consider acceptable. He deserves consistent playing time, which a loan move would provide.
It appears to be a straight shootout between Amad and Elanga to see who will follow Pellistri out the door. Amad has excelled on loan at Sunderland this season, but Elanga, one of the few positives from the Ralf Rangnick era, has regressed, suggesting that a season-long loan spell abroad could jump-start his career.
United clearly requires a suitable backup option for Anthony, and you would argue that Sancho is the most likely candidate, despite the fact that he is unlikely to be comfortable in that role. Beyond those two, United still requires someone to give cover and depth.
The five participants in the discussion offer unique and diverse aspects to the problem. Ten Hag, on the other hand, has a conundrum to solve.