Erik ten Hag has defended Manchester United’s £86million winger Antony amid a storm of criticism.
Gary Neville and Rio Ferdinand were among the pundits asking whether the Brazilian is contributing enough after United’s 3-2 defeat to Arsenal on Sunday.
Ten Hag was desperate to sign Antony from his former club Ajax over the summer, but he has yet to chip in with a single assist in United colours – although he has scored five times.
Antony (right) struggled to make an impact as Manchester United were beaten by Arsenal
Erik ten Hag took the winger off with 19 minutes to go, with United losing the match 3-2
But the United boss sprung to the player’s defence ahead of Wednesday night’s Carabao Cup semi-final, first leg fixture with Nottingham Forest.
‘When he’s playing, the team is winning. That already gives a message of how well he is performing,’ Ten Hag said.
‘He can do better, I see space for improvement. For instance, and I think also you know this, we want him to be more direct and be more involved.
‘But, as I said, the team is performing better if he is on the pitch.
‘That’s a good thing, that’s a good base to build further. I think he has already made an improvement.
Antony (L) is dividing opinions amongst Manchester United fans with many labelling him a flop
Antony has been a regular starter under manager Erik ten Hag despite struggling in matches
Man United fixtures
Premier League unless stated
Wednesday Nottingham Forest (A)
Carabao Cup semi-final, first leg
Saturday Reading (H)
FA Cup fourth round
February 1 Nottingham Forest (H)
Carabao Cup semi-final, second leg
February 4 Crystal Palace (H)
February 8 Leeds United (H)
February 12 Leeds United (A)
‘In his first three [Premier League] games, he scored three goals. Now he was scoring against Everton [in the FA Cup], he was scoring against Charlton [in the Carabao Cup], so also that fact, he has an impact.
‘But I think with his capabilities, with his talents, he can do even more. But as I said, I think he has made a [good] contribution in the team.’
Neville said he wanted to see more from Antony after he was replaced by Fred in the 71st minute at the Emirates Stadium as United were beaten by league leaders Arsenal.
Speaking on The Gary Neville Podcast, Neville said: ‘I wish they had better quality up front in the final third. Obviously Sancho’s not out there and you would expect that Manchester United would have better options from the bench, but they haven’t at this moment in time.’
‘I want to see a little bit more from Antony, to be honest with you. £90million signing.
‘I think that to have to take him off is a disappointment because you’d like to think that like Martinelli and Saka, who are also young players, that Rashford and Antony could have been the ones of the other side of it that could have counter-attacked for United.’
Neville added that Antony has ‘some growth to go through’ and suggested that the 22-year-old is still adapting to English football.
‘It’s just not quite happening for him at this moment in time. He’s got a bit of work to do. He’s got obviously some growth to go through and obviously he’s newer to England than the other two are, but they’re little complaints at this moment in time.’
The 22-year-old has scored three Premier League goals since his £86m move to Old Trafford
Antony (L) scored on his Premier League debut during United’s win over Arsenal in September
Another former United defender, Rio Ferdinand, was also critical of Antony’s performance.
Ferdinand stated that Antony ‘just doesn’t beat anyone’, which is in stark contrast to how he performed at Ajax.
Speaking on his FIVE show, Ferdinand said: ‘He just doesn’t beat anyone and I’m sitting there thinking, “Was that always the way?”
‘I’ve seen clips of him when he was at Ajax and he was somebody who used to beat people.
‘I saw Thomas Partey, who I wouldn’t put down as a sprinter, absolutely burst past him, and I’m thinking, “Woah, he (Antony) hasn’t got much power in them legs!”
‘He’s a tricky winger, but with tricky wingers you want them to still be able to beat the defender.’
He joined United for £86m in the summer and was meant to solve the club’s right-wing crisis
Ten Hag also addressed an incident during United’s 1-1 draw at Crystal Palace last week when Antony appeared to call team-mate Bruno Fernandes a ‘b***h’ in Portuguese as they argued over a misplaced pass.
‘I think that can happen. They are both players who play with the heart and, when they bring that in the game, they are on their best so it’s always a kind of balance,’ Ten Hag said.
‘And always between players, sometimes emotions flare up but I think, in the second moment, they are already good with each other so that is not a problem.
‘I think definitely the players are not frustrated with him.’
Manchester United’s Antony appeared to goad his own team-mate during their recent game
The Brazilian winger was seen calling out to Bruno Fernandes in their game with Crystal Palace