Last night 2-2 draw between Manchester United and Leeds United underlined the importance of Antony.
Antony missed the game against the Whites due to an injury, which meant that Erik ten Hag had to change his plans and swap Rashford’s position from the left to the right in order to make up for the absence of the Brazilian.
However, it can be argued that Rashford was not at his most productive on the right against Leeds, and because Rashford and Antony are two players with completely different profiles, it underlined just how much of a miss Antony was from the right-hand side because of his ability to offer balance and hold the width, which was missing at times against Leeds.
To his credit, ten Hag understood and recognised that the decision to put Rashford on the right to start was not the most effective because United’s key attacking weapon was not getting any joy in the opening 45 minutes, so therefore at the start of the second half, the Dutchman changed it as he put the United number 10, who helped United get back into the game with a brilliant header, back to the left, which meant that Garnacho moved over to the right, and when the Argentine was substituted, Facundo Pellistri took his place on the right, which I thought was a good move from ten Hag as the Uruguayan looked lively and bright.
Balance is a key word because for example in the game against Leeds, both Alejandro Garnacho, who started the game on the left and Rashford like to use their directness to get past defenders, whereas if Antony plays, it is different because he is a player who tends to hold his position and try make things happen, which means that United do not lose their shape and it compliments Rashford as well because they have different attributes.
I also felt that United missed Antony’s calmness when in possession because until Sancho came on, I felt as though the players forced it too much. Yes, United were losing or in the last 20 minutes drawing the game after Sancho scored, I felt as though calmness was needed because had United been more patient, then more spaces and opportunities would have opened up.
A good example of how we can see the importance of Antony can be explained in the graphic below, which was against Crystal Palace because the United number 21 keeps his position and that is essential when trying to break teams down because the amount of moving the defenders and midfielders will have to do to contain Antony will eventually tire them out, which plays into United’s hands in the final stages of the game.
Oh Erik pic.twitter.com/hHGmTsWWiD
— إِسْحَاق (@PackedDaily_) February 4, 2023
Antony holding his position is also key because it means that United have an outlet and that the players know that 90 percent of the time, he will occupy those positions, which means that there is an easy pass on for the players to make.