Manchester United stars to step up with £85.5m Antony waiting in the wings

Two games into his tenure at Manchester United, Erik ten Hag knew he desperately needed reinforcements to turn things around.

Cristiano Ronaldo has been relegated to the bench, as has Harry Maguire, and steps have been taken for Casemiro and most notably Antony in a £85.5million deal from Ajax.

Antony is capable of playing on either side in Ten Hag’s three-man front line and his versatility is one of the reasons the Dutchman was keen to get back together at Old Trafford this season.

Man United sealed a deal for Ajax and Brazilian winger Antony in the last week of the window

Man United sealed a deal for Ajax and Brazilian winger Antony in the last week of the window

The 22-year-old Brazil international usually likes to attack on the right side of the field, cutting into the field to use his dominant left foot. Most of his shots come from cutting in and hitting that left foot from the edge of the box.

He’s also capable of crossing positions and will add needed creativity in and around goal. It’s a skill United fans are confident will benefit from this season.

However, one of United’s regular starters will have to drop to the bench to put Antony in the starting XI. It’s likely the Netherlands manager will use his former Ajax star on the right – so Antony could sideline the likes of Anthony Elanga, Cristiano Ronaldo and Marcus Rashford.

The 22-year-old has mastered Ten Hag’s tactical approach and preferred playing system from their time together at Ajax and keeps the upper hand to hit the ground running.

So, in that sense, sports mail We take a look at the impact Antony’s arrival could have on the current Manchester United forwards.

Antony's arrival at the club could displace a United regular from Erik ten Hag's side

Antony’s arrival at the club could displace a United regular from Erik ten Hag’s side

Jadon Sancho

Sancho joined United in July 2021 after signing a five-year deal from Borussia Dortmund.

He was brought in to solve United’s problems at right flank but struggled to cement a place in the club’s starting XI under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and then-interim boss Ralf Rangnick.

However, the England international has rediscovered his best form under Ten Hag and has begun to show why United were right to pay Borussia Dortmund £73m for his services.

The arrival of Antony could actually help Sancho thrive at United as he is used as a left winger – which suits his style of play. Occupying this position allows him to threaten on goal rather than focus on the build-up game.

Sancho is yet to prove himself, however, as his selection could push Marcus Rashford down the pecking order – something the 24-year-old will be desperate to prevent.

Ten Hag has used Sancho, Rashford and Anthony Martial as his front three (when the France international has been fit). As a result, all three players will have to fight to keep their place after Antony’s arrival. Of all, Sancho is the one who avoids the ax the most.

Antony's arrival at the club could help Jadon Sancho (pictured) find success at Manchester United

Antony’s arrival at the club could help Jadon Sancho (pictured) find success at Manchester United

Marcus Rasford

Rashford is another player who has found his way back to better form under Ten Hag. He’s fitter than ever and looks threatening both on the ball and in the penalty area.

His performances so far this season have earned him a Premier League goal and a regular place in Ten Hag’s starting XI. However, Rashford could be in jeopardy following the arrival of Antony this summer.

Antony’s Eredivisie stats for the 2021-22 season trump those of Rashford, Sancho, Elanga and Martial. He scored more goals than any of his new Manchester United team-mates.

He also recorded more assists than the above players and Cristiano Ronaldo. Antony also completed more successful dribbles per 90 minutes and more shots per 90 minutes.

As a result, Rashford could see he was pushed further down the pecking order to accommodate the Brazilian.

Sancho is likely to move to United left wing and as such Rashford will either drop out of Ten Hag’s starting XI or compete with Martial for a place in the team as a centre-forward.

Rashford will most likely be picked over Elanga but it remains to be seen if he can bring Martial into a spot on the team. Should the France international return to full fitness, he could become United’s first centre-forward and Rashford could warm the bench.

Consistency will be the key differentiator with so much competition for places. Rashford is back in the groove but it’s up to him to grab the shirt – and keep it.

Marcus Rashford's starting spot could be in jeopardy following Antony's arrival at the club

Marcus Rashford’s starting spot could be in jeopardy following Antony’s arrival at the club

Anthony Martial

Martial rediscovered his best form during Manchester United’s pre-season tour of Thailand and Australia this summer and out of nowhere he appeared to have saved his Old Trafford career.

He was exciting to watch and exuded confidence in the last third. He looked totally transformed.

However, the Frenchman has struggled to make the same impact in the Premier League as injuries weighed on him earlier in the season. Ten Hag recently announced that Martial will miss United’s games against Leicester and Arsenal.

As a result, Martial runs the risk of losing his place in the squad in the long term. Antony is expected to play for United against Arsenal at the weekend and a standout performance from the former Ajax striker could hurt Martial.

Statistically, Antony Martial is superior. He plays more passes in a 90-minute game and takes more shots in the box.

Antony also dribbles more successfully per 90 minutes and creates more chances per 90 minutes. As such, Martial will need to get back on the field sooner rather than later to prove his worth before Antony becomes unthrown.

Martial is also at a disadvantage Ten Hag is a great admirer of Antony. He previously described the new striker as “world class”. Earlier this year, the United boss said: “If Antony left it would be a loss for Ajax because you don’t have anyone in the current squad to take his position. He’s top notch.”

A saving grace for Martial is that Ten Hag is more likely to use Antony on the right side of the pitch than in his central position. It’s not all over yet.

Anthony Martial is out through injury and risks losing his place in the team

Anthony Martial is out through injury and risks losing his place in the team

Cristiano Ronaldo

Ronaldo accepting his fate on the bench wasn’t what many expected earlier this season. But the truth is that he could be left out of Erik ten Hag’s squad entirely after the arrival of Antony.

Ten Hag made the bold decision to bench Ronaldo early in the season after claiming he wasn’t fit enough to start after missing most of the pre-season due to family reasons.

Many thought Ten Hag’s decision was just for show and Ronaldo would return straight to the starting XI after warming up the bench for the first game or two.

However, Ten Hag decided to keep Ronaldo raring to go on more than one occasion. He even forced the Portugal international to watch from the sidelines as United welcomed bitter rivals Liverpool to Old Trafford.

Instead, it was Rashford who led the line for United, with Ronaldo only being introduced as a substitute in the 86th minute.

If Ronaldo is currently struggling to get into Ten Hag’s starting XI, he faces an even tougher task of breaking into the team once Antony has made his name for the Red Devils.

Ten Hag also shows no signs of including Ronaldo in the starting XI. He urged the 37-year-old to be more adaptable after United’s 2-1 win over Liverpool.

He said: ‘I think he [Ronaldo] can [adapt], throughout his career and under multiple managers. He always performed in multiple styles and systems.’

Cristiano Ronaldo has struggled to get United into the starting XI since the Brentford debacle and Antony only adds more competition and obstacles for the Portuguese to get back in there

Cristiano Ronaldo has struggled to get United into the starting XI since the Brentford debacle and Antony only adds more competition and obstacles for the Portuguese to get back in there

Anthony Elanga

Ten Hag decided to play Sancho, Rashford and Elanga as his front three against Leicester. His decision clearly paid off as United won 1-0 and Sancho scored the only goal of the game.

Elanga also played a crucial role in the result, proving he has the ability to play regularly for United. However, he was apparently only awarded one place on the team because Martial was out due to injury.

Elanga is still seen as one of those players close to making the starting XI but he will have no illusions about how the arrival of Antony will affect his chances. The former Ajax forward has a wealth of experience that puts him far ahead of Elanga.

Antony won Olympic gold with Brazil last year and has also achieved three major successes at club level. The 22-year-old has won Eredivisie titles and the KNVB Cup with Ajax.

Antony has also won two individual awards for his achievements, including the Eredivisie Player of the Month award in December 2020 and the Eredivisie Talent of the Month award in December of the following year.

Anthony Elanga (left) has done well to break into United's first eleven but his progress could be hampered following the arrival of Antony from Ajax this summer

Anthony Elanga (left) has done well to break into United’s first eleven but his progress could be hampered following the arrival of Antony from Ajax this summer

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/football/article-11169509/Manchester-United-stars-need-step-85-5m-Antony-waiting-wings.html?ns_mchannel=rss&ns_campaign=1490&ito=1490 Manchester United stars to step up with £85.5m Antony waiting in the wings

Maureen Mackey

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