What Is Going Wrong for Antony Santos at Manchester United?

What Is Going Wrong for Antony Santos at Manchester United?

Rene Otinga
updated at August 9, 2023 at 9:30 AM
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  • Antony became the 13th most expensive player in history when he signed for Manchester United
  • The Brazilian has struggled to live up to his price tag, attracting mass criticism from pundits and fans alike
  • After months in the Premier League, it may be time for Antony to change his game to suit the big leagues

He arrived at Old Trafford with a lot of promise and hype, but Antony Santos is the classic case of 'you are only as good as your last performance' in football.

The 22-year-old Brazilian was brought in by Erik ten Hag from his former club, Ajax for a whopping €100-million and for a player who is the second-most expensive in the club’s history, he is struggling to live up to the price tag.

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Wolves' Jose Sa clears the ball while under pressure from Manchester United's Antony Santos during the Premier League match at the Molineux Stadium on December 31, 2022. Photo by Joe Giddens.
Source: Getty Images

Notably, Antony was brought in to inject the much-needed pace and creativity in the Man United flanks, but he is yet to register a single assist in Red Devils colours, although he has scored five in 19 appearances.

To put that stat into perspective, his Brazilian counterparts in the Premier League - Ederson and Alisson Becker - have one assist each so far this campaign.

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We forgot to mention that these two are both goalkeepers.

Why is Antony struggling?

Antony has consistently been in Manchester United’s starting XI, but his conversion has always left more questions than answers.

More recently, he was the first to be subbed off against Arsenal in the 3-2 thriller on Sunday, and had a public dispute with Bruno Fernandes during the midweek game against Crystal Palace.

Clearly something is not right with Antony at United, and pundits including former Premier League marksman, Darren Bent have labelled him a 'YouTube footballer'.

There could be some truth to Bent’s sentiments, as Antony could simply be suffering from a case of being stuck in his ways.

Earlier in the season, he infamously did a rather meaningless 'spin' against Sheriff Tiraspol in the Europa League, only for his subsequent pass to roll hopelessly out of play.

In the wake of a string of criticism heading his way, a defiant Antony said he would continue to perform flashy skills, insisting he 'would not stop doing what brought him to where he was'.

But maybe what brought him to where he is at the moment is his ability to impact a game, and not fancy spins in the middle of crunch games.

Maybe Antony needs to utilise his talents a bit more than simply using his left foot, which he has abundantly made clear of its lethal nature.

A recent analysis by The Athletic also seemed to hit hard at the Brazilian's reluctance to use his right foot, which makes him rather predictable on the flanks.

Critical fans of the Premier League, who have a keen eye on the game, have also noticed the Brazilian betrays his nationality’s footballing stereotype of having the seamless ability to trick and beat a defender in a one-on-one situation.

Typically, when Antony has the ball on the flanks and is closed down, he tends to play a back pass to midfield and the attack has to build up once again.

Big league, big expectations

Things might have worked out for Antony at Ajax, but the Premier League is surely the most popular league in the world for a good reason.

The standards of the English top flight are simply too high, and there is little room to only rely on raw talent and ‘filthy’ skills.

For Antony, he may need to adapt to the ‘big league’ and perhaps tweak his game to suit his team for maximum output.

If it is any consolation, Cristiano Ronaldo also came to the Premier League with the same raw talent, but was forced to turn himself into a goal machine for the good of the team - and for himself. He is now one of the greatest goal scorers in football history.

Antony's message to fans

On Tuesday, Antony took to social media with an interesting message to fans, as reported by Sports Brief.

Instead of hitting out at his critics, the Brazilian instead sought to reassure the Manchester United faithful.

“It has always been a dream to be here, and I will give all I have to honor this club because we are stronger together!” he stated.
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Rene Otinga
Rene Otinga is a sports journalist with over eight years of working experience in digital media. Rene's experience includes working as a Copywriter at X News Kenya and TUKO.co.ke.
Erik Ten Haag