The Battle for Manchester United’s Right Wing: Antony’s Quest to Prove His Worth Amidst Unfair Liverpool Comparisons”
Antony, who plays as a forward for Manchester United, is expected to address an unjust comparison made to Liverpool FC. He has faced challenges since the beginning of his career at Man Utd and hopes to improve his performance in the upcoming match against Real Betis.
The day was supposed to demonstrate Manchester United’s growth and development, but it ended up highlighting what they could have achieved. Despite the progress made under Erik ten Hag, Liverpool’s seven-goal victory last Sunday erased all of that hard work. This raised doubts about United’s recent improvement. The defeat was even more painful for United because it came at the hands of their biggest rivals, and two players who could have been signed by United scored during the match.
Last summer, Manchester United were genuinely interested in signing Darwin Nunez, but his exorbitant price tag deterred them. They also chose to pursue their top target Antony instead of Cody Gakpo, who they passed on. Following United’s defeat at Anfield, Antony’s performance has been compared to Gakpo’s. While both players are wingers, signed from the Eredivisie, and the same age, this comparison is not entirely fair.
Antony was signed to address Manchester United’s long-term need for a proper right-winger, which is his position as a left-footed forward. In contrast, Gakpo has mainly played in an inverted role on the left, a position where United already have plenty of players. Thus, comparing their output is not entirely fair, especially since Gakpo scored 21 goals last season compared to Antony’s 12. Furthermore, since joining Liverpool in January, Antony has scored more league goals than Antony has since joining United last summer.
However, it is fair to compare the price paid for both players. Liverpool signed Gakpo for up to £45m, even after his World Cup performance for the Netherlands. In contrast, United agreed to pay a massive £85m fee for Antony, a raw player with a lot of potential for growth.
While Antony should not be solely held accountable for his high price tag, it is understandable why it is used against him. For such a significant amount of money, United should be getting a world-class forward capable of winning games on his own. Although there have been some glimpses of that potential, Antony has not demonstrated it frequently enough during his debut season.
As a young player, it is crucial for him to be given time to adjust and develop before he can be fairly judged. However, the problem is that there is far less patience given how much he cost, which could make it challenging for him to justify his valuation in the short term.
Manchester United has heavily invested in improving their right-wing options in the last four years. They spent a combined fee of up to £46 million on Amad and Facundo Pellistri’s arrival in 2020. A year later, they signed Jadon Sancho for a fee of £73m, and Antony’s arrival last summer brought the total spent on the right-wing position to £204m.
Given the amount of money invested in that area of the pitch, it is crucial for Erik ten Hag to find a solution, and patience may be the only way to achieve it, considering the young age profile of the four candidates to play in that position. However, there must be some signs of improvement before any waiting games can be tolerated.
At only 23 years old, Antony is already the most senior option to play on the right wing. Therefore, he needs to perform like a senior player and show significant improvement to justify United’s investment in him.