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Why some in Holland feel Manchester United have been mugged in Antony deal

It was no surprise when Erik ten Hag returned to his former club in a bid to entice Antony to join him at Old Trafford, the price tag United ended up paying for him has raised plenty of eyebrows.


Kevin PalmerSunday World

THE smirks among Dutch football observers have been hard to ignore after Antony completed his remarkable €100million move to Manchester United.

While the cynics do not doubt that the 22-year-old Brazilian is a thrilling talent when at his best, there is a feeling that he is something of a show pony and a luxury player who can be accommodated in an Ajax side that tend to dominate the Dutch league.

It was no surprise when Erik ten Hag returned to his former club in a bid to entice Antony to join him at Old Trafford, the price tag United ended up paying for him has raised plenty of eyebrows.

Ed Woodward developed a long-standing (and well deserved) reputation for paying inflated transfer fees during his time as United’s disastrously ill-equipped transfer guru.

Yet even though Richard Arnold has replaced Woodward in that pivotal role at Old Trafford, there is a perception that United have been mugged over the fee they have paid for their latest big-money signing.

Still a relatively raw talent, Antony Matheus dos Santos started his youth career with his hometown club Sao Paulo and made his debut for the first team just for years ago.

Ajax quickly identified his potential and paid €15million to sign him in early 2020.

That is where he started his journey with Ten Hag, who was quick to comment Antony for his fighting qualities.

His initial days at Ajax saw many observer question whether he was ready for first team football, but Ten Hag persisted with him and he started to come good as his first season reach a conclusion.

Stepping up to the senior Brazil national team, Antony scored 13 minutes into his international debut after coming on as a substitute during Brazil’s World Cup qualifier against Venezuela in October 2021.

On paper, the sporting statistics suggest United have signed a player who can add a spark to their attacking plan this season, with Antony scoring recording 10 goals and 10 assists ins first seasonal Ajax and another 12 goals and 10 assists in the campaign that followed.

Yet when United started their attempt to sign Antony, there was a feeling that a fee in the region of €50million might be enough to snare a player who has yet to prove he can shine against Europe’s best consistently.

History confirms that star performers in the Dutch league take time to find their feet in England’s top division, with many failing in the mission to become Premier League stars.

Ruud van Nistelrooy is a notable example of a player who shine brightly for United after sealing a move from Dutch side PSV Eindhoven, yet he arrived with a very different set of tools.

Physically strong and busting with pace, Van Nistelrooy had attributes to compare to Manchester City’s new star man Erling Haaland when he arrived at United in 2001.

More than 20 years on, Antony might well struggle to repeat that story.

Here is a player as famous for his showboating and flashy nature as he is his final product, but he know what he is walking into at United.

Back in March, Antony was given a very public repost by Ten Hag after the winger helped Ajax claim a 2-0 win over AZ Alkmaar in the semi-final of the Dutch Cup.

“He must focus on football,” declared Ten Hag. “He was a total threat, but he has to convert that into returns and not worry about frills or flourishes.

“He has to play more effectively because he had chances to make the last pass.

“It was clear that he was very dangerous and on the one hand I enjoyed him, his speed, his pressure, the threat of his dribbles, but he could also have got more out of his play.”

They were comments that will have been ringing in Antony’s ears as he was reunited with Ten Hag in recent days and it seems he might be given his United debut in double quick time against Arsenal this afternoon.

Casemiro might also be handed his first start this afternoon as Ten Hag suggested he is getting up to speed after a week at their Carrington training bas.

Also, don’t be surprised if Cristiano Ronaldo returns to Ten Hag’s starting line-up, as he looks to freshen up his side after the relatively quick turnaround from last Thursday’s 1-0 win at Leicester.

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