Christian Eriksen was asked in the build-up to the game about the differences between playing for Manchester United and other clubs.
“In terms of pressure during the game, it’s the same. But outside of it, it’s a lot bigger. The focus and the publicity around the club is a lot bigger.”
Perhaps when Antony was playing for Ajax there would not have been so much attention on a spot of showboating towards the end of a first half. But this is Manchester United, where every touch (good or bad) is analysed again and again.
United were 1-0 up at the break against Sheriff Tiraspol thanks to a Diogo Dalot header, but when it came to the game, there was only one topic of conversation among pundits, fans and those on social media.
The spinning Antony.
In the 38th minute, the United and Brazil winger received the ball on the right and, completely unmarked, decided to execute his trademark skill, a 360-degree spin with the ball glued to his left foot. On this occasion, he made it a double.
The Sheriff midfielder Rasheed Ibrahim Akanbi stared at Antony without even bothering to press, and upon completing the second spin, the United player slid a pass out of play for a goal kick. Showboat. Mistake. And move on. Or not…
In the BT Sport studio, former United midfielder Paul Scholes was distinctly unimpressed.
“It’s just ridiculous. It’s showboating, What is he thinking? — I think he needs that [showboating] kicking out of him,” suggested Scholes.
« Embarrassing! »
— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) October 27, 2022
Owen Hargreaves, another former United player on duty last night, treaded a similar line: “One spin is fine. The second one… you need to have skill with function. If he does that around somebody, I would be jumping out of my seat. He has come a very long way to be at Old Trafford to show that skill, but I want to see it closer to someone.”
In fairness to Antony, no one can accuse him of only doing it when everything is going to plan. It was goalless at Old Trafford last night when he started pirouetting, and he had done the same, with the scoreline the same, against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge five days earlier.
Erik ten Hag took Antony off at half-time and he gave his thoughts on the player’s trickery after the Sheriff game. “I don’t have a problem with the spin as long as it’s functional,” said the United manager. “I demand more from him, more runs in-behind, more tempo dribble, more dominance. A trick like this is nice as long as it is functional and you don’t lose the ball. If it’s doing a trick with no purpose, I will correct him.”
« I will correct him » 👀
Manchester United boss Erik ten Hag has his say on THAT Antony skill 🔴⤵️pic.twitter.com/kFmwDGggo5
— Sky Sports Premier League (@SkySportsPL) October 27, 2022
Surely there are things about Antony’s game that can be “corrected”, but this just feels part of his footballing style, how the Brazilian approaches the game. This freestyling mentality helped earn Antony a move to one of the Premier League’s giants and he does not look very open to change.
In fact, shouldn’t it be good news for United fans and those involved with the club to see the players being given a platform to express themselves on a football pitch. There hasn’t been a lot of that in recent years.
Antony was not the only player who enjoyed themselves against Sheriff. Dalot continued his fine start under Ten Hag with his first goal of the season after playing seven full games in a row.
United’s second goal of the game belonged to Marcus Rashford, another who looks a completely different player compared to a year ago. He looks back to being the player he was.
Rashford made it 2-0 in the 65th minute with a header from a timely cross by Luke Shaw, orchestrated after an excellent pass sequence. It was the sixth goal of the season for the 24-year-old Rashford, who is one goal from reaching a century for United. He is the team’s top goal scorer in all competitions this season, doubling the tallies of Cristiano Ronaldo (who scored United’s third last night), Anthony Martial, Jadon Sancho and Antony.
If we are talking about players showcasing their full ability and catching the eye of Ten Hag, then we must mention Alejandro Garnacho. The 18-year-old was the surprise name in Ten Hag’s line-up, as the Dutch manager awarded the winger his first start of the season.
“He’s reliable but also has the X-factor. He is one who can outplay players, he can run in behind,” Ten Hag explained before the game. After an excellent 90 minutes, there was nobody in the stadium who would question him.
Garnacho was United’s man of the match, winning seven duels (the most in the game), completing three dribbles, winning four fouls and making a nuisance of himself in the Sheriff penalty area. He had the chance to top his performance with a goal in the second half but his shot flew just over.
For United, it was mission completed. A comfortable 3-0 victory and they kept their hopes of sealing top spot in the group alive with their biggest win of the season so far. Old Trafford was granted an exciting glimpse of the future in Garnacho and some polarising showboating by one of the most talented players in their team, Antony.
Read the full article here