Man United stars who need to step up with Antony waiting in the wings

Martial needs to overcome injury woes, Rashford must find consistency and out-of-favour Ronaldo faces even MORE competition to get back in… the five Man United stars who need to step up with £85.5m Antony waiting in the wings

  • Manchester United sealed a deal for Ajax and Brazil winger Antony this summer
  • Antony is expected to feature for the Red Devils in their game against Arsenal
  • The 22-year-old’s arrival could push some star players out of United’s starting XI
  • Sportsmail has looked at who could be at risk and how Antony will fit in at United

Erik ten Hag knew two games into his tenure at Manchester United that he desperately needed reinforcements to turn this around.

Cristiano Ronaldo was relegated to the bench, as was Harry Maguire, and moves were made for Casemiro and, most significantly, Antony, in an £85.5million deal from Ajax. 

Antony is capable of playing on either flank in Ten Hag’s three-man front line and his versatility is one of the reasons why the Dutchman was eager to reunite at Old Trafford this season. 

Man United sealed a deal for Ajax and Brazil winger Antony in the final week of the window

The 22-year-old Brazilian international typically likes to attack down the right-hand-side of the pitch and cut in-field to utilise his dominant left foot. The majority of his shots come from cutting in and striking from the edge of the box on that left foot.

He is also capable in crossing positions and will add some needed creativity in and around the goalmouth. It is ability that United fans are convinced they will benefit from this season. 

However, one of United’s regular starters will have to be dropped to the bench to fit Antony into the starting XI. It’s likely that the Dutch manager will deploy his former Ajax star on the right flank – therefore, Antony could push the likes of Anthony Elanga, Cristiano Ronaldo and Marcus Rashford out of the picture.

The 22-year-old has already mastered Ten Hag’s tactical approach and preferred playing system from their time together at Ajax so holds the upper hand in being able to hit the ground running. 

So, with that in mind, Sportsmail have taken a look at the impact Antony’s arrival could have on Manchester United’s current crop of forwards.  

Antony’s arrival at the club could push a regular starter at United out of Erik ten Hag’s team

Sancho joined United in July 2021 after signing a five-year contract from Borussia Dortmund. 

He was brought in to solve United’s right-sided woes but struggled to cement a place in the club’s starting XI under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and then interim boss Ralf Rangnick. 

However, the England international has rediscovered his best form under Ten Hag and has begun to show why United were right to pay Borussia Dortmund £73m for his services. 

The arrival of Antony could actually help Sancho thrive at United as he will be utilised as a left winger – which suits his style of play. Occupying this position allows him to threaten in on goal rather than focus on the build-up play. 

However, Sancho will still need to prove his worth as his selection could push Marcus Rashford down the pecking order – something the 24-year-old will desperately try to prevent.

Ten Hag has been utilising Sancho, Rashford and Anthony Martial as his front three (when the French international has been fit). Therefore, all three players must battle it out to keep their place following Antony’s arrival. Of all of them, Sancho is the most likely of avoiding the axe. 

Antony’s arrival at the club could help Jadon Sancho (pictured) thrive at Manchester United 

Marcus Rashford 

Rashford is another player who has rediscovered better form under Ten Hag. He is fitter than ever and looks threatening when on the ball and inside the penalty area. 

His performances so far this season have seen him bag a Premier League goal and a regular place in Ten Hag’s starting XI. However, Rashford could now be at risk following the arrival of Antony this summer. 

Antony’s Eredivisie stats for the 2021-22 season trump those of Rashford, Sancho, Elanga and Martial. He scored more goals than all of his new Manchester United team-mates. 

He also registered more assists than the aforementioned players and Cristiano Ronaldo. Antony also completed more successful dribbles per 90 minutes and more shots per 90 minutes. 

As a result, Rashford could see himself being pushed further down the pecking order to accommodate the Brazilian. 

Sancho is likely to move to United’s left wing and therefore Rashford will either drop out of Ten Hag’s starting XI or battle it out with Martial for a place in the team as the central striker. 

Rashford will most likely be selected above Elanga but it remains to be seem whether he can pip Martial to a place in the team. Should the France international return to full fitness, he could become United’s first centre forward and Rashford could warm the bench. 

Consistency will be the key differential with so much competition for places. Rashford is back in the groove but it’s up to him to grab the shirt – and keep it.  

Marcus Rashford’s starting XI spot could be at risk following Antony’s arrival at the club

Anthony Martial   

 Martial rediscovered his best form during Manchester United’s pre-season tour of Thailand and Australia this summer and out of nowhere he looked to have salvaged his Old Trafford career. 

He was exciting to watch and oozed confidence in the final third. He looked totally transformed. 

However, the Frenchman has struggled to have the same impact in the Premier League as injuries have weighed him down early in the season. Ten Hag recently announced Martial would miss United’s games against Leicester and Arsenal.

As a result Martial runs the risk of losing his place in the squad in the longer term. Antony is expected to feature for United against Arsenal on the weekend and a stellar performance from the former Ajax forward could be detrimental to Martial.

Statistically, Antony is superior to Martial. He makes more passes during a 90-minute game and unleashes more shots inside the penalty area. 

Antony also completes more successful dribbles per 90 minutes and creates more chances per 90 minutes. Therefore, Martial needs to get back on the pitch sooner rather than later to prove his worth before Antony becomes undroppable. 

Martial is also at a disadvantage as Ten Hag is a huge admirer of Antony. He previously referred to the new forward as ‘world class’. Speaking earlier this year, the United boss said: ‘If Antony were to go, it would be a loss for Ajax, because you have no one in the current selection who can take over his position. He is top class.’

One saving grace for Martial is that Ten Hag is likely to deploy Antony on the right-hand-side of the pitch, rather than his central position. It’s not all over yet. 

Anthony Martial has been sidelined with injury and runs the risk of losing his place in the team 

Cristiano Ronaldo

Seeing Ronaldo having to accept his fate on the bench is not what many had anticipated at the start of this season. But, the truth is, he could be frozen out of Erik ten Hag’s squad all together following the arrival of Antony. 

Ten Hag made the bold decision to bench Ronaldo at the start of the season after claiming he was not fit enough to start after missing the majority of pre-season for family reasons. 

Many thought Ten Hag’s decision was for show and that Ronaldo would go straight back into the starting XI after warming the bench for the first game or two. 

However, Ten Hag decided to keep Ronaldo waiting in the wings on more than one occasion. He even forced the Portugal international to watch on from the sidelines as United welcomed bitter rivals Liverpool to Old Trafford.

Instead, it was  Rashford who was leading the line for United, with Ronaldo only introduced as a substitute in the 86th minute. 

So, if Ronaldo is struggling to make Ten Hag’s starting XI at the moment, he faces an even tougher task to break into the team once Antony makes his mark for the Red Devils. 

Ten Hag is also showing no signs of recalling Ronaldo to the starting XI. He called for the 37-year-old to be more adaptable following United’s 2-1 victory over Liverpool. 

He said: ‘I think he [Ronaldo] can [adapt], and in his whole career and under several managers, he did. In several styles and systems, he always performed.’ 

Cristiano Ronaldo has struggled to make United’s starting XI since the debacle at Brentford and Antony only adds more competition and roadblocks to the Portuguese getting back in

Anthony Elanga 

Ten Hag decided to play Sancho, Rashford and Elanga as his front three against Leicester. His decision clearly paid off as United won 1-0 and Sancho scored the only goal of the game. 

Elanga also played a pivotal role in the result and proved he is capable of playing regularly for United. However, he was seemingly only awarded a place in the team because Martial was ruled out through injury. 

Elanga is still regarded as one of those players that is on the cusp of making the starting XI but he will be under no illusions of how the signing of Antony hurts his chances. The former Ajax forward has a wealth of experience that makes him far more superior to Elanga. 

Antony won Olympic Gold with Brazil last year and has also achieved three major honours at club-level. The 22-year-old has picked up Eredivisie titles and the KNVB Cup at Ajax.

Antony has also won two individual accolades for his performances, including the Eredivisie Player of the Month award in December 2020 and the Eredivisie Talent of the Month gong in December the following year.

Anthony Elanga (left) has done well to break into the United first XI but his progress could be stunted following the arrival on Antony from Ajax this summer 

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