How Manchester United could line up with Antony, Casemiro...
The latest mega-million signing will likely play on the wing, which is expected to have a knock-on impact on Elanga and Sancho. And what about Cristiano Ronaldo?
Erik ten Hag is linking up at work with an old acquaintance. The Dutch coach has previously coincided with three of the five signings that Manchester United has made this summer. Christian Eriksen, Lisandro Martínez and now Antony appear to be Ten Hag’s trusted men. Antony is the latest to join the Premier League club, signing a contract until the summer of 2027 at Old Trafford on Monday afternoon. His hiring was officially announced on Tuesday.
Trusted: Antony, Eriksen, Martínez
At 22 years old, the Brazilian stood out last season under Ten Hag. He was greatly helped by Ajax’s style, which tended to control the ball and put the opponent under pressure for much of the game. Antony is an intense footballer who spares no effort in pressing and is capable of protecting the ball in small spaces. He certainly falls into the category of creative winger.
He can dribble at speed and hit the byline when asked to, but his runs are usually directed towards the central area, from where he combines with his teammates. Eriksen’s technique and Casemiro’s solidity should allow him to shine in Manchester United’s attack, no matter what Marco van Basten says.
Man Utd’s XI new midfield taking shape
Last week, Casemiro was presented at Old Trafford to his new fans, neatly ahead of a much-needed victory against bitter rivals, and title contenders, Liverpool. After two embarrassing defeats against Brighton and Brentford, Ten Hag’s ship looked to have straightened its course. The midfielder made his debut with his new team playing the last ten minutes of the next game against Southampton. His task was clear: to help defend the slender advantage his team had as the Saints dominated the latter stages. It worked.
It is to be hoped that in the next few days he settles definitively into the starting eleven for the Red Devils. Scott McTominay will likely lose his place, although the Scotsman’s good performances in the last two games offer arguments that he can compete with Fred (his sidekick for Brazil) and Eriksen for being Casemiro’s teammate in midfield. The Danish midfielder has played all four Premier League games so far. He was the false 9 in the awful start to the season against Brighton, but has slowly began to make things tick in the subsequent games. Arguably, if the new parts gel, United have already made a big step forward in terms of depth of quality, and this goes for the attacking line too.
Elanga impacted, Ronaldo unknown
Antony will play on the wing, to the detriment of his namesake Elanga. The Swede arrived at the Manchester United youth academy in 2015, and made his debut with the first team at the end of 2020-21. His regularity last season was due, in part, to the poor performance of attackers like Jadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford. This campaign he has formed an attacking trident with both players, but the 20-year-old could find himself relegated to the bench with the arrival of Antony.
Sancho and Rashford are a true reflection of the start of the Manchester United campaign. Without result in the first two games, but contributing to the two following victories. Both scored in last week’s 2-0 draw against Liverpool. Antony will occupy one wing, likely the right meaning that Sancho will shift to the other, and Rashford will continue through the middle, as against Liverpool and Southampton. Anthony Martial and the aforementioned Elanga will be their replacements.
The main unknown remains Cristiano Ronaldo. With the summer transfer market on the verge of closing, the Portuguese legend has not found a way out and neither has he started in the two matches with which Ten Hag has made his mark and picked up wins. He did fully experience the rout conceded at the hands of Brentford, but came off the bench in the subsequent games in the final minutes. In ‘86 against Liverpool and in ‘68 last Saturday.
As per the graphic above, all this suggests a first-choice starting XI as follows:
De Gea, Dalot, Varane, Martínez, Shaw, Fred, Casemiro, Fernandes, Sancho, Antony, Rashford
When will Antony make his debut for Man Utd?
The next game for United is on Thursday evening away to early season strugglers Leicester City to bring the midweek round of fixtures to a close in matchday 5. Unfortunately for fans hoping to see the Brazilian, they’ll have to wait as he was not registered in time.
That means that his most likely debut will be in a relatively mouth-watering clash at Old Trafford against current table-toppers Arsenal on Sunday 4 September. What a way to get involved!