It was a long pursuit, but Ajax winger Antony is set to be reunited with Erik ten Hag as Manchester United close in on a deal worth up to €100 million, CBS Sports insider Fabrizio Romano reports. The structure of the deal hasn't been fully agreed upon yet, but a contract has been prepared for Antony for five years with an option of a sixth, according to Romano. The signing would make Antony the third most expensive arrival in Manchester United history alongside Paul Pogba and Harry Maguire. He's expected to to undergo a medical.
During his time at Ajax, the Brazilian winger has scored 22 goals and assisted 22 more in only 82 appearances in all competitions after moving from Sao Paulo. Antony shined during Champions League play last season scoring three goals and assisting 12 more during Ajax's run. He'll join Lisandro Martinez as the direct transfers from Ajax to Manchester United this season as ten Hag looks to instill his style after being tasked with turning around Manchester United.
The team have shown signs as of late with victories over Liverpool and Southampton, and Antony could bring a lot to the attack despite the risk that comes along with his hefty price tag. As ten Hag has coached Antony for the last two seasons, he knows what the winger can do best and will put him in the best position to succeed as he transitions to the Premier League. It's an important deal for Manchester United to get over the line, and as Antony is only 22, the price tag could've risen after the World Cup in November.
Ajax knew how much ten Hag wanted Antony and were able to push Manchester United to meet their valuation but what does he bring to the Red Devils?
Depth to compete past the 60th minute
While results have turned for United recently, they've had a hard time holding on to games after the 60th minute due to how much ten Hag's press takes out of the players. The addition of Casemiro will help with the defensive side of having the team not need to work as hard to protect the goal while Antony will shift one of Anthony Elanga or Jadon Sancho to the bench. Being able to unleash them on tired legs will keep the pressure on the opposition to close out games.
Currently, Cristiano Ronaldo has been among the last few subs into a match but due to him not being a willing presser, it has caused the front three to lose sync. When Anthony Martial is back from injury, ten Hag can choose to leave Ronaldo on the bench due to having capable backups at each wing position as well as at striker with this move. While figuring out an exit plan for Ronaldo has been a struggle, freezing him out certainly can be a viable option if he won't buy into the ten Hag's style.
Technique, speed and superb dribbling
On the ball, Antony is going to cause problems for defenders in the Premier League. Able to pass, shoot or take his defender on dribbling, he brings everything to the table that United hoped they were getting from Jadon Sancho.
If ten Hag can unearth the Borussia Dortmund version Sancho on the left wing, United could quickly have one of the most dangerous attacks in the Premier League. If he's not able to, then there are worse backup plans to have than Antony as the focal point of the attack. Clearing space for Diogo Dalot to overlap, Bruno Fernandes will also score a few more goals like his winner against Southampton. Sancho did score the winner against Liverpool and assisted the winner over Southampton.
Reasons to be excited
With Frenkie de Jong staying at Barcelona, the was concern that the Manchester United name was losing its luster in the transfer market. With Casemiro and Antony joining over the course of a week, that has been dispelled. United have had to put money on the table to get the deals across the line but if they're able to qualify for Champions League, it will be money well spent. United will look to go on a run with a full squad while also chasing a Europa League title. Considering that they're one of the favorites in the completion, ten Hag does have a good shot at his first trophy before the end of the season if they can find consistency.