Manchester United are strongly interested in bringing Ajax’s talented young forward Antony to Old Trafford, as new boss Erik ten Hag looks to shape the attack into his image.
According to reports ESPN, Man United have switched their transfer focus to a more versatile attacker rather than a traditional forward after failing to sign striker Darwin Nunez.
Antony represents that change and manager ten Hag and director of football director John Murtough are keen to sign the player. The Brazilian wizard is very interested in linking up with the Red Devils, however, Ajax are demanding around €80m (£69m) for the player, a fee United are hesitant to match.
12 goals and ten assists in just over 2,500 minutes of first-team football suggests that the 21-year-old has played a big part in Ajax’s success, and has also catapulted himself to become one of Europe’s finest and most exciting wingers.
It is certainly easy to see why Ten Hag wants to work with him again, as the 22-year-old fits the Dutchman’s philosophy right down to a tee. When Ajax formed their conventional build-up structure last term, the fullbacks tended to drop into a narrower position. To oppose this, the wingers move wider to open up a diagonal lane.
This meant the wingers (who are typically inverted) such as Antony can receive in a consistent manner, back to touchline providing them the full view and width of the pitch so they can create freely and move into areas (in half-spaces) where they feel they can affect attacking phases of play and hurt the opposition.
Possessing a player of Antony’s qualities could be incredibly useful at Old Trafford and a flawless sight for the United faithful, seeing as he is not only an effective out-an-out winger, but an extraordinary creative force via his wand of a left-boot and his ability to link-up effectively with his teammates.
However, the Red Devils may already possess a similar attacking quality in their ranks, which means they could well save millions.
Ivorian wing-wizard Amad Diallo is indeed a similar profile to Antony, and certainly, he may be an unproven quantity heading into the new campaign, but that was the case for the Brazilian forward when he joined Ajax in 2020. As a result of Ten Hag’s tactical work, confidence and belief in Antony, he was able to repay that faith with some stunning performances for the Amsterdam giants.
And Ten Hag could well provide that same belief with Amad, which could ultimately save Manchester United spending huge amounts this summer. The former Atalanta wonderkid, as stated previously is stylistically similar to the Brazilian.
The 20-year-old is left-footed perfectly capable of lining up on the right flank, dazzling with the ball at his feet, can beat his markers with tremendous skill, but also possesses the qualities to become the potent and creative force Antony was last season, if afforded the same opportunities both tactically and positionally.
He featured in three Premier League games for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s team during the 2020/21 campaign, providing one assist and showcasing just why the club spent £37.2m on the player.
England international Luke Shaw once compared Amad to Riyad Mahrez in February 2021, saying: “He’s a wonderful talent and already a wonderful player so I’m sure fans are looking forward to seeing him on the pitch. It was interesting because Harry (Maguire) said to me the other day that he reminds him of Mahrez when he was at Leicester. Really quick, skilful, agility, can turn really quick, got great skills and I would agree with Harry – he does remind me of Mahrez.”
The Ivorian was unable to translate those qualities during his loan-spell for Scottish giants Rangers last term, and could this season be the year he is given a new lease of life under new management.
The £28k-per-week magician managed three goals and in ten Premiership outings, with two of his strikes coming in his last three matches.
He only produced one goal contribution in his first seven league games but his end to the campaign suggests that he was starting to get to grips with the division. Along with his two goals in the last three matches, he created five chances and completed eight dribbles. Like Antony, Diallo certainly is a decisive force when taking shots at goal. Last season he ranked third in the Scottish Premier League for goals per shot on target (0.60)
This shows that he was offering a threat in transition and was able to provide quality in both his finishing and his passing in the final third. When in full-flow, the four-time Ivory Coast international is a true joy to watch, wonderfully gifted in the dribble and capable of unlocking opposition defences at will.
Diallo is certainly a player with amazing potential, and you could argue he wasn’t afforded with the opportunities at the Gers that his talents maybe demanded, and that’s why Ten Hag must give him a chance in pre-season at least.
He could provide the same attacking qualities, creativity and tactical freedom that Antony did last season, whilst also more importantly boosting his personal development and becoming the player he’s always been primed to become.
Now, imagine what he could do this campaign a full pre-season and Ten Hag’s belief and instructions behind him.
He can develop into Manchester United’s own version of Antony – scoring and creating goals on his left foot from out wide – as Shaw and Maguire hinted at and that is why Ten Hag must place his belief in the Ivorian rather than spending bucket loads on a player who arguably may take a lot more time to bed into the United way of playing.