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Manchester United: Ten Hag can finally replace Ronaldo with Antony

It’s far too early to say Manchester United are where they want to be, but after yesterday’s victory over Premier League pacesetters Arsenal, it’s certainly a lot closer than what it was a month ago.

Erik ten Hag began his Old Trafford career in dreadful fashion, losing 2-1 and 4-0 to Brighton and Hove Albion and Brentford respectively, with the latter defeat arguably one of the lowest ebbs in the post-Fergie era.

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A remarkable win over a dysfunctional Liverpool side was a start, but only if they could keep up the momentum. The Arsenal triumph was their fourth on the spin and things are beginning to look a lot brighter in the red half of Manchester.

The late summer transfer addition of Brazilian winger Antony has also improved the mood of the Old Trafford faithful, with fears they might miss out on one of their main targets, an £85m fee was agreed and he made the move to England.

Long-term Ronaldo replacement?

One of the big talking points during the summer was whether Cristiano Ronaldo would remain in Manchester or move elsewhere but in the end, the 37-year-old stayed with Man United, although he hasn’t had the same impact as he did last season.

Ronaldo has only started once this season, the woeful defeat to Brentford, and has come off the bench a further five times after suggestions that he was looking for a way out of Old Trafford.

Of course, he is still one of the finest players to have graced the game with five Ballon d’Or’s to his name but he is no longer a spring chicken.

Indeed, it said a lot that United’s new Brazilian was preferred to him despite only being on their books for a matter of days and when Ronaldo came on for him late in the piece, it was perhaps symbolic of what could play out for the rest of the campaign.

With the £200k-per-week Antony making his debut against Arsenal, the 22-year-old soon gave the world a glimpse of just why United were chasing him for so long with a wonderfully taken goal in the 35th minute. Marcus Rashford poked the ball through to him and the former Ajax man comfortably side-footed the ball home.

With such a great impact, it appears that Ten Hag has stumbled upon a system at United that doesn’t rely on the mercurial forward. Instead, it could well rely on the fortunes of the younger Antony.

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The Dutchman already looks like he has reaped the rewards of the summer-long pursuit of his former Ajax star and he sang his praises last season, saying:

“He is going through an incredibly beautiful development. Especially if we perform in the Champions League, then it is clear that he will come into the spotlight and be interesting for a lot of clubs.

“If you play a role in the Brazilian selection, it is clear that he will be pulled. From a sporting point of view, it is clear that he is an incredible talent.”

This newfound confidence and the addition of the 22-year-old to what was a United side in turmoil not even four weeks ago proves there could be a changing of the guard.