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Erik ten Hag defends Antony after poor start to the season

Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag has expressed confidence that £86m winger Antony will rediscover his form and remains the “right” player for the club.

United spent several months tracking Antony from early 2022 onwards, before mounting an offensive last summer to sign the Brazilian from Ajax, where he had worked and flourished under Ten Hag.

He showed flashes of quality that had made the likes of Liverpool, Manchester City and Chelsea all take an interest in him, notably finding the net in each of his first three Premier League appearances and scoring the goal that saw United knock Barcelona out of the Europa League.

But with a couple of minor injuries also seeing his season become a little stop-start, his form had largely tailed off by the time the 2022/23 campaign wrapped.

Antony began 2023/24 no better, failing to score or assist a goal in any of his first four Premier League appearances. He was then placed on a temporary leave of absence in September when concerning assault allegations were made against him by multiple women.

Erik ten Hag's relationship with Antony stretches back to their Ajax daysErik ten Hag's relationship with Antony stretches back to their Ajax days

Erik ten Hag’s relationship with Antony stretches back to their Ajax days / ANP/GettyImages

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Having initially remained in Brazil after being dropped from the national team when the accusations first surfaced, the 23-year-old returned to England and resumed training at the end of September. However, police inquiries were still ongoing. Antony strongly denies the allegations.

Still with no goals or assists since returning to the pitch, Ten Hag appeared to suggest that the “noise” has contributed to a drop in performances. But he sought to defend the player as an individual and put the focus on the team as a whole and himself as manager.

“That is also team, first, and the team is not playing well when we don’t bring him the balls and I am also responsible for that,” the United boss told the press on Wednesday night.

“But obviously, there was also a lot of noise and that dropped his levels. He can do better but all the players can do better. Antony is also a fighter, he has the confidence, he is brave and I am confident he will bring the performance, that he is the right player for us.”

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