There were moments against Charlton Athletic in the Carabao Cup quarter-finals on Tuesday that summed up AnthonyYour time at Manchester United so far.
The first came in the middle of the first half: he caught a pass from uniquetook two touches, and hit the ball into the far corner of the goal with his left foot, putting Man United up 1-0.
The second came moments later when he had the chance to help make it 2-0: instead of taking the opportunity to cross the ball into the penalty area with his right foot, he decided to check again and go backwards. Momentum and time was lost for United to start over.
Just over four months since Anthony’s arrival at Old Trafford, controversy has begun over the Brazilian winger.
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United might not have beaten Charlton, an eventual 3-0 victory, had it not been for his brilliant 21st-minute tackle, and a brilliant solo goal was the difference even Marcus Rashford He scored twice in injury time. But the groan of some fans who greeted every behind pass whenever Anthony looked uncomfortable with his right foot suggested United might have been out of sight earlier had Anthony taken more of the good positions he’s been getting.
It’s still very early days in Anthony’s United career, but for now, at least, he disagrees.
It wouldn’t come as a shock to manager Erik ten Hag that Anthony is on one foot after spending two and a half years together at Ajax, but it did surprise some fans that United were willing to spend €100m on a player with such obvious limitations.
It’s his eye-catching transfer fee – the third largest ever advertised for a player – that frames much of the controversy surrounding Anthony, despite that figure and something he can do nothing about.
He told Ajax in January that he wanted to leave in the summer, and United announced themselves very early on as a possible destination. Sources have told ESPN he’s been on United’s radar since his breakthrough at Sao Paulo and interest increased when Ten Hag was appointed manager.
Ajax initially transferred around €60m, which was considered quite high, and by the time Ten Hag pushed the case later into the window, Ajax had already closed deals for the transfer of six players – including Lisandro Martinez To United – and they were in no rush to make a deal. But as the deadline got closer, Anthony began to agitate for a move, and eventually Ajax contacted Man United director of football John Murtaugh to say they were ready to talk.
The deal struck was for €95m in cross-payments and a further €5m in a performance-based bonus, making Anthony the fourth most expensive player signed by a British club behind him. Jack GrealishAnd Romelu Lukaku And Paul Pogba. If the fee had been lower, the scrutiny of Antony’s early performance might not have been so intense.
United privately accept they have overpaid, but insist they have their reasons.
Firstly, there weren’t many other options in this position and while Martinez was one of five left-footed defenders to be considered, only three strikers – including Anthony – made it to the shortlist. Secondly, Murtog and the recruitment team impressed with his desire to join United, and thirdly, their monitoring of the transfer market indicated that a number of top clubs in Europe would be looking for a similar player in 2023, which would only drive up the price. in addition to.
“We paid for the player we think he can become, not the player he is now,” a source from United told ESPN.
United are counting on Anthony to improve, and despite five goals in 16 appearances to start his England career, Ten Hag was keen to stress that he is not the final slate. At 22, he has time on his side.
“He’s a young player we have to develop, but he has to develop himself,” Ten Hag said after Anthony scored in a 2-1 win over Everton in October. “We have to expect more from him. He needs challenges. That’s why he came to the Premier League. He’ll progress. In the first weeks, he’s scored goals, he’s done good things, but I also see a lot of room for improvement in his game.”
Developing his weaker foot is an obvious starting point.
Arjen Robben made a career-high cut from the right to score with the left, and Charlton manager Dean Holden admitted after the game on Tuesday that despite his defenders being told to take care of Anthony “on the outside”, they still fell short. He pulled off what he described as a “world-class finish”.
Antonio Valencia made over 300 appearances for United and won two Premier League titles without really using his left foot, but Antonio could find that the pitch opens up more of the confidence he has with his right.
So far in the Premier League, Anthony has only had five successful appearances and has yet to score an assist or create a so-called ‘big chance’, which is defined as a situation in which a player is normally expected to score. However, he might argue that it doesn’t matter when you score against Arsenal and Manchester City. Only Marcus Rashford has scored more goals for United this season.
Against Charlton, Anthony delighted and frustrated the crowd in equal measure, and that’s been the case for most of his season so far. For Ten Hag, the hope is that ultimately the good far outweighs the not-so-and, over time, €100m seems well spent. For now, though, he will likely be content with another goal against City at Old Trafford on Saturday.