Antony has yet to consistently reach new heights since joining Manchester United from Ajax.
The scream that greeted Antony’s first goal for Manchester United against Arsenal is unlikely to be forgotten by the Brazilian.
Aside from that low, accurate, curling effort past Aaron Ramsdale in the Arsenal goal, the 22-year-first old’s three appearances in United colors have failed to excite. Aside from the occasional flick and trick here and there, he has largely gone unnoticed.
On Thursday evening, it was a similar story versus Sheriff Tiraspol in the Europa League. He was overshadowed by Jadon Sancho on the opposite wing, and it was easy to forget he was on the field, just as it was seven days previously against Real Sociedad.
In his defense, he is a young footballer whose life has been revolutionized, both on and off the field, in just a few weeks. He, like fellow Ajax recruit Lisandro Martinez, needs time to acclimatize to his new surroundings and grow into his role.
However, given the enormity of the fee United paid to get Antony, he will be expected to deliver on a regular basis. United manager Erik ten Hag has identified him as his first-choice right-wing target, putting pressure on both of them to justify United’s eye-watering £85.1 million fee.
Antony’s start to life at Old Trafford might have been lot more dismal if it hadn’t been for his debut goal against Arsenal. That was his big break, but he hasn’t done much else in his first three games.
However, United’s triumph over Sheriff on Thursday night provided additional evidence that the club’s players are getting more aligned with Ten Hag’s attitude and the way he wants them to play. You may argue that they were up against a club that had never progressed past the group stage of any European competition they had entered, but United, like any other club, can only perform against what is in front of them.
United dominated the proceedings in Moldova, but they should have stepped on the throttle a little harder. Their passing play was superb at moments, and it was evident that the players were buying into Ten Hag’s methods.
Diogo Dalot’s ever-changing role on the right side was one of their approach’s most prominent features. The Portugal international was deployed in his normal right-back slot, although he rarely stayed to it due to the luxury of the space he was given. He started in midfield before moving up to the right flank position.
Dalot had come into midfield to gather up possession before Sancho’s opener, which was created by a 14-pass play, much like Kyle Walker did for Manchester City. Dalot’s movement drew Sheriff players towards him and the ball, allowing Antony to get on the ball and move into space.
At the same time, Dalot sprinted over the right wing and made a forward run. The Brazilian chose not to use him as an option, instead bringing the ball back inside, although this required a Sheriff defender to be hauled out to the flank to keep an eye on the United right-back.
Dalot has been one of United’s most improved players under Ten Hag thus far. He looked razor-sharp in pre-season, creating a promising connection down the right with Sancho, and played a significant role in the 1-0 Premier League triumphs over Southampton and Leicester City, respectively.
He’s having a lot of success down the right, but Ten Hag’s tactical approach, which requires him to come inside, may clear the way for Antony to flourish. When Dalot moves inside to get the ball and overload the midfield, one or two opposing players are drawn into the center, making room for Antony on the right.
If United continues to probe with that trait and is quick enough in possession to get the ball back out wide to Antony, he may be able to weave his magic, since he loves to cut inside and shoot with his preferred left foot. Dalot, like Tyrell Malacia in the opposite full-back spot, is proving important to United’s style of play, with Ten Hag wanting his full-backs to tuck in and be comfortable in possession.
So far, both have proven dependable, and Dalot may be the key to unlocking Antony’s potential. The role of Manchester United’s full-backs was altering in pre-season. Ten Hag may now be able to use it to finally release his star signing.