There were some doubts about Antony when Manchester United signed him. He was viewed as an Erik ten Hag lieutenant and there were concerns about how he would adapt to English football. A lot of players have moved from the Eredivisie to the Premier League and the transition has been mixed.
No team know this more than United, as they signed Memphis Depay when he was viewed as one of the best prospects in Europe. He struggled to adapt to English football and he wasn’t the attacking threat that they believed he would be. During his time in England, he scored just two Premier League goals.
Antony has already surpassed this, with three goals in his first six matches. It has been a quick transition for the Brazilian, as he looks at home at Old Trafford. Over these matches, he has been Manchester United’s biggest threat in the final third. It is clear why Ten Hag was so keen to bring him to the club. The head coach knew Antony’s game well from their time together at Ajax and he has immediately established himself at his new club.
The primary thing that Antony has brought to the Manchester United attack is shot volume. The Brazilian is always looking to be positive in the final third and he has an eye for goal from distance. His goals against Arsenal and Manchester City showed how dangerous he can be from range. They were superb strikes and opposition defences will get tighter to him in those positions, which could open up space in behind for Marcus Rashford to exploit.
The former Ajax attacker is averaging 3.67 shots per ninety minutes. This ranks him 6th in the Premier League. The next highest Manchester United player in the list is, weirdly, Fred. The midfielder averages 3.03 shots per ninety minutes. Last season, there was an over-reliance on Cristiano Ronaldo to finish the attacking moves. Ten Hag is trying to transition away from that dependence. To do this, it was important to increase the shot volume in the forward line. Antony has done that.
Unsurprisingly, Antony has been very effective in possession. He is good at keeping hold of the ball in tight spaces and he rarely gives the ball away with his passes. This is a common trait for players that have been schooled at Ajax. He has a pass success rate of 83.2%, which is high for a forward player. For context, Bruno Fernandes (77.9%) and Marcus Rashford (73.3%) both have lower pass success rates.
Ten Hag wants his team to be more dominant in possession. That relies on the defenders and midfielders being able to retain the ball well, but it is also useful if the attackers aren’t wasteful in their pass selection. Antony is the perfect fit for the role, which is why he was brought over with the manager from Ajax. There has been less of a transition for him in terms of style, even though he is in a new country.
In terms of creativity, Antony is still very productive in the final third, with an average of 3.3 shot creating actions per ninety minutes. Although this places him 39th in the Premier League, he is offering creativity.
Those that have watched Antony closely will have drawn some comparisons with Arjen Robben, in the way he is always looking to cut in on his left foot to strike towards goal. Despite this being his favoured play, he is difficult to stop due to his close ball control.
It is early in his Manchester United career, but the early signs are that Antony is very well suited to Ten Hag’s side. He has transitioned quickly from the Eredivisie and he is now one of the most important players, despite playing just six Premier League matches.