While there may still be hope among Manchester United supporters that manager Erik ten Hag is handed funds to further strengthen this month, one of the Dutchman’s primary concerns will be to try and get a tune out of those already at the club, including summer signing Antony.
Having worked under Ten Hag at Ajax, the fleet-footed Brazilian followed his former boss to Old Trafford during the previous window, joining for a rather hefty fee of around £86m.
That price tag didn’t appear too great of a burden initially as the 22-year-old netted in each of his first three Premier League games, although the winger has struggled to perform consistently since then, with his two further goals having come in the FA Cup and League Cup, respectively.
Although those efforts have illustrated the youngster’s undoubted talent – having notably curled home in emphatic fashion in the recent win over Charlton Athletic – they have failed to mask the 15-cap gem’s inability to make a difference in matches for a sustained period.
Those struggles were evident in the defeat to Arsenal on Sunday, as the Sao Paolo native was unable to combine his commendable work ethic with an end product.
The mercurial talent did win six of his nine duels in what was a combative performance on the flanks, although his woes in an attacking sense were epitomised by one moment in the second half as he attempted to surge forward into space with the ball at his feet, only to see a heavy touch gift possession back to the Gunners.
The sight of the 5 foot 9 maverick trudging off after being substituted has been a familiar one this season, with the club nor United supporters yet to be convinced of his suitability for English football.
While it is far too early to write Antony off, the wide man may find himself in a position later this year in which his place in the side could be directly threatened, with Amad Diallo showing signs out on loan at Sunderland that he could still be able to force his way into the first-team reckoning at Old Trafford in the near future.
The 20-year-old has been on the periphery since joining the Red Devils on an initial £19m deal from Atalanta back in January 2021, having notably endured an underwhelming spell on loan at Old Firm giants Rangers in the second half of last term, scoring three times in only 13 outings for the Ibrox club.
The Ivorian’s subsequent move to the Stadium of Light has since proved particularly fruitful, however, with the three-cap international having scored seven goals in his 22 Championship outings this season, including in the recent win over Michael Carrick’s Middlesbrough.
That devastating finish saw the £29k-per-week gem brilliantly lash home after cutting in onto his stronger left foot from the right flank, having showcased himself as a truly “unbelievable” talent during his time with the Black Cats thus far, as per manager Tony Mowbray.
Such form also earned praise from the aforementioned Carrick ahead of that recent meeting, with the United legend stating:
“I know Amad very well from United. He’s a terrific footballer and seems to have jumped up a level again from the start of the season.
“His performances have improved and he is a threat.”
Even though Amad is thriving in the second tier rather than the top flight, it would appear that he is continuing to make great strides at present, with his hot streak in stark contrast to that of Antony’s.
Those displays have also seemingly impressed Ten Hag, with the Dutchman even stating that a loan recall could be under consideration, albeit while also acknowledging that a mid-season return could harm his development:
“We consider everything but I have a little bit of reservation about that because I don’t want to stop the process. He has made really good progress there so I’m happy with that. But young players need experiences and when we decide for him to come back, he has to be a player who can compete for the starting XI or minimum to come on for a lot of games and make an impact.
“But I see and value his potential and capabilities. What I saw is that he needs experience in men’s football, senior football. I think there are many aspects of football to get strong physically and mentally, and also skills-wise to improve and develop that so he can have value for us.”
It would appear the hope is for Amad to be primed and ready for the start of next season, with the sparkling talent – who typically lines up on the right flank – no doubt hoping to rival his fellow left-footer, Antony, for a starting berth.
On the evidence of the pair’s differing form this season, that could well be a very tight battle indeed.