Manchester United has had a turbulent introduction to the new Premier League season. Their shaky victory over Wolves, combined with a disheartening loss to an underperforming Spurs, has left fans concerned. While there are multiple facets to their lackluster performance, one glaring issue has been their right flank.
The right flank comprising of Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Antony have struggled to put significant pressure on the opposition’s defense. Antony, in particular, is under scrutiny. After his €95m transfer from Ajax last season, expectations were high. While he has showcased moments of brilliance, his tally of 8 goals and 3 assists has left many feeling underwhelmed.
Adjusting to a new country and the weight of expectation in his debut season might have been challenging. However, after a year, patience is wearing thin. The predictability of Antony’s plays, stemming from his heavy reliance on his left foot, has been a point of contention. While football greats like Arjen Robben were known for favoring one foot, it’s the efficacy with which it’s used that counts. Too often, opponents have anticipated Antony’s moves, rendering his contributions ineffective.
Moreover, Antony’s decision-making has been questionable at best. His failure to exploit the vast spaces on the right, combined with his missed opportunities in front of the goal, have exacerbated United’s challenges. His miss against Spurs is a case in point: converting that chance could’ve been a potential game-changer.
The Path Forward
It might be time for Antony to take a step back. To rejuvenate United’s attack, players capable of unsettling defenses are crucial. Facundo Pellistri’s cameo against Spurs makes a compelling case for his inclusion in the starting lineup.
Jadon Sancho’s experience on the right wing during his Dortmund days also positions him as a suitable replacement. Although Sancho tends to be a tad conservative, his technical prowess might be the antidote to United’s current woes.
Amad’s impending return from injury also offers a potential solution. While Antony’s move to the left flank, paired with either Garnacho or Pellistri on the right, could be explored. Given Rasmus Hojlund’s presence as a target man, it would be intriguing to see how Ten Hag could exploit this dynamic, perhaps starting with a trial in an EFL match against a less formidable opponent.
In conclusion, this isn’t a witch hunt against Antony. The team’s challenges are multifaceted, with striker issues and midfield dilemmas also needing urgent attention.
Historically, Manchester United players have thrived under pressure, but recent displays suggest a departure from this legacy. The crux of football remains scoring, and without this essential element, defeats become inevitable.