Are Manchester United signing a striker? How would that affect how they play?
Many names have been linked with moves to Manchester, but one in particular could have a huge impact.
I’m going to give you a question, and I want you to answer it in 3 seconds. Ready?
How do you stop Antony from doing anything dangerous on the wing?
Did you get it right?
Well done if you said something like “make him play on his right foot”. The winger has very rapidly got more of a reputation for spinning in idle circles that doing any damage with his weaker leg, but I’m going to try to explain why Manchester United’s moves in the current transfer window may help the Brazilian find his feet. Well, find his other foot.
Ajax arrived at Manchester United for an eye-watering fee of £85 million ($103m) in the summer of 2022, as the club tried to navigate their way out the seemingly perpetual problems that had suffered ever since the departure of Alex Ferguson in 2013. The 22 year old winger arrived with the expectation of becoming one of the figureheads of a new era at the club, but quickly found life in England’s north-west hard to adapt to.
Antony only has one leg
The Premier League is notoriously difficult, and the financial muscle throughout the division means that all teams up and down the table have the resources to carry out heavy research and plan against every rival in a specific way. The trick was quickly worked out with Antony, a tricky winger, but with one major flaw: his right leg.
Summing up Antony as only left-footed is harsh but only to a certain extent. In all competitions this season, Antony has shot with his left foot 33 times, which adds up to a whopping 89.2%. His right boot is slightly cleaner, having just 4 shots, 10.8% of the total. So, edging him down the wing, forcing him to use his right foot is a plan that might work, given his preferences.
Antony at Ajax
The winger came from Ajax after performing incredibly well in the Eredivisie for two years, where he earned a reputation as a skillful winger who liked to cut in from the right and play with his left foot. As you can see from his statistics, he had an excellent rate of goals and assists, scoring 25 times in 72 starts and provided 21 assists.
Every single statistic is more favourable at Ajax than the number while at Manchester United. Obviously this does not follow a straight conclusion, there have been a multitude of problems in the team’s tactics so far, but his key passes and successful dribbles are way down, showing there is a lack of creativity from the player who is constantly running into dead ends in the league.
Weghorst the problem solver
So, the question remains: how to get the best out of the $100 million winger when there is such a clear plan to stop him? Well, not by training his right foot, but by giving him another option with his left. Manchester United are looking heavily at bringing in man mountain Wout Weghorst, scorer of possibly the most ludicrous goal we saw at the World Cup (sorry, Hagi Wright) against Argentina. You know the one.
Weghorst’s inclusion in the squad would give both Eric ten Hag and Antony something that they relied on heavily during their time at Ajax: a huge statue in the box to head the ball in the net. OK, of course it’s not quite as simple - but it is. Weghorst would stand at the back post and try his luck at getting on the end of any Antony cross after the winger cuts in on the left - something he is not going to stop doing now, after years of it working - and uses his stronger foot to chip a ball into the box (from this angle, a front post cross would be harder to both carry out and finish, as Weghorst would have to head the ball backwards). All those assists at Ajax came from something, mainly from putting the ball onto Sébastien Haller’s head.
‘But what about Ronaldo?’ I hear you shout through the internet. Well, he’s in Saudi Arabia, and probably would’ve never worked in this role of pushing back the defence, creating space and politely waiting for the teammate to do their thing before getting the tap in. Or maybe he would. But so should Weghorst.