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Antony to Man Utd? Why the Brazilian would succeed at Old Trafford

Posted on April 06, 2022

If Ajax did miss Antony for Saturday's trip to FC Groningen, they certainly didn't show it. The Eredivisie leaders eased to a 3-1 win at Euroborg, with Steven Berghuis, who filled in for the Brazilian on the right, earning the WhoScored man of the match award. Prior to the international break, Antony was shown his marching orders for a second yellow late on in Ajax's 3-2 Klassieker win over Feyenoord, and was therefore banned for the routine league win.

Antony was superb in that victory over Feyenoord, scoring the decisive goal four minutes from time to secure all the spoils for Erik ten Hag's side before his dismissal deep into second half injury time. Nevertheless, that sending off won't have convinced potential suitors he is not worth the fuss.

After a strong debut season following his 2020 arrival from Brasileirao outfit Sao Paulo, Antony has been a revelation in Ajax's title pursuit. A WhoScored rating of 7.47 is the eighth best in the Eredivisie this season with eight goals and four assists helping Ajax to the top of the Dutch top tier.

There has been a minor wobble of late - Ajax haven't kept a clean sheet in five, which is remarkable considering their early season dominance - yet they remain on course to land their 36th domestic title. That could in turn be their last with Ten Hag at the Ajax helm. The Dutchman, who was linked with Tottenham last summer, has been mooted with a switch to Manchester United at the end of the season as the Premier League powerhouse seek out their next long-term boss.

Ten Hag and Mauricio Pochettino are among the favourites to take over the United reins over the summer, with the former at this stage the more likely of the two to succeed Ralf Rangnick. And if that were to come to pass, then it's rumoured that Antony would follow the Dutchman to Manchester.

Considering the wing options in the United camp at present, it remains to be seen whether a player of Antony's ilk is a requirement over the summer, particularly with a holding midfielder perhaps a greater priority, yet with Marcus Rashford struggling, Anthony Elanga still inexperienced and the less said about Mason Greenwood, the better, then there is a good reason behind the rumoured interest in the youngster.

He is the modern day winger in that he starts from the right but looks to work the ball onto his left to drive for goal. When he is picked out on the flank, he'll seek to maximise a WhoScored strength of 'dribbling' by drifting infield, thus opening up space for the marauding right-back to overlap - for Ajax more often than not, this is Noussair Mazraoui - and go for goal himself. Indeed, all but 12 of his 79 efforts on goal in the Eredivisie this season have been with his left foot, while all eight league goals have been with this body part.

The Brazil international also uses this approach to crossing - again another strength of his - as he looks to pick out a teammate at the back post with his wicked left. It's an approach that does work fairly well with a cross success rate of 25.7% decent enough, though of course there is room for improvement. Meanwhile, playing for a team of Ajax's stature, he sees plenty of the ball to attack teams, with Ten Hag's side enjoying far more possession (67.3%) than any other Eredivisie side.

For United, at least until Ten Hag gets his ideas across should both the Dutchman and Antony swap Amsterdam for Manchester in the summer, the winger won't be afforded the same luxury, with the Premier League side's possession average of 52.2% the sixth highest in England's top tier, a return actually lower than Brighton (56.7%) and Leeds (54.1%).

That being said, this could work in Antony's favour and aid his development. Whereas with Ajax, opponents tend to sit deeper, so he has had to adapt his game accordingly to help get the better of defenders, though he has still returned a modest dribble success rate of 56%; again, room for improvement. For United, where teams don't fear the Manchester giants as they once did, he'd have more space to turn on the afterburners and tear past opponents into space that wouldn't usually be available for Ajax.

That being said, Ajax will want to retain the Brazilian's services considering his impact in the Netherlands, but they have previous of unearthing gems across the world before turning a profit on stars in the making. This has been the case for the likes of Frenkie de Jong, Matthijs de Ligt, Luis Suarez and Davinson Sanchez, to name four, and fans may bare witness to similar with Antony.

Any possible exit is dependant on Ten Hag's future at the Johan Cruijff ArenA, and if he were to depart for United in the summer, then Antony may follow suit. Few could have predicted such a rapid rise from the young attacker following his arrival from Sao Paulo, yet it's clear that Antony is destined for greatness, be that in Amsterdam or elsewhere. United fans will be hoping to oversee his development into a top quality winger at Old Trafford.