Having completed the signing of Casemiro, Manchester United are now on the hunt to complete their 5th acquisition of the summer and transfer specialist Fabrizio Romano said, “Now they are focusing on a new winger.” He also goes on to name the two players Man United are targeting, Antony from Ajax and Cody Gakpo from PSV. It seems as though Erik Ten Hag has once again used the Eredivisie as his hunting ground, having signed Malacia from Feyenoord and Lisandro Martinez from Ajax. Eriksen too developed in Ajax and was training with the Dutch club following the termination of his contract with Inter Milan.
Manchester United are in contact with Antony agents as deal now depends on Ajax decision: key days ahead, while Cody Gakpo’s camp is also in direct contact with Man Utd since 2 weeks. 🚨🔴 #MUFC
Gakpo, always been in United list – also, he has same agents as Erik ten Hag. pic.twitter.com/TxJiDsND4Y
— Fabrizio Romano (@FabrizioRomano) August 22, 2022
Both Gakpo and Antony would be fantastic signings, but it would be impossible to sign them both due to the available budget. Having coached Antony, Ten Hag has an affinity with him and Fabrizio has said Antony is pushing for a move having not turned up for training and wishing to miss Ajax’s next match. The bid on the table is 80 million euros, and Antony is the priority, however close contact is maintained with Gakpo in case Ajax remained insistent and do not sell Antony. It seems as they Manchester United scouts and analysts would have to work overtime to figure out which player will be the best fit for the club
Antony has all the flair in the world and is an exciting and aesthetic player. He has been crucial to Ten Hag’s squad in both their title-winning seasons. He ended last season with 12 goals and 10 assists, a season whose second half was plagued with injuries, causing the Brazilian to star in just 33 matches. Gakpo on the other hand had a much more productive campaign, with 21 goals and 15 assists in 47 games. While the former had a goal or assist every 115 minutes, the latter had either every 94 minutes. Over their careers, Antony has 24 goals and 22 assists in 82 games for Ajax, while Gakpo has 45 goals and 37 assists in 141 games for PSV. Both these stats indicate a high level of attacking output with Gakpo being more productive than Antony.
Antony records better creativity than Gakpo with 0.88 key passes and 3 crosses per match, as compared to Gakpo’s 0.7 key passes and 1.36 crosses. He also has an 82.3% pass accuracy as compared to Gakpo’s 77.2%. Another interesting fact is, that though Antony is widely known for his dribbling, he attempts 4.4 dribbles per match and has completed 59% of total dribbles as compared to Gakpo attempting 6 per match and completing 65% in total.
Antony frequently likes to hang wide to the right so he can pick up the ball and drive inward to gain momentum. He moves with explosive acceleration from a standing start and maintains his balance and lower body strength under extreme pressure. He is a player who takes responsibility for his own mistakes and works very hard. It may be inaccurate to label him capricious since one of Antony’s most notable actions has already resulted in goals for Ajax on numerous occasions. Antony enjoys bending in floated crosses to the far post from a small area of the pitch in the right-hand half-space just beyond the penalty area with his left foot. His control of the ball is exceptional, and his body positioning and leg swing are examples of well-trained muscle memory. It is a vital weapon to have when facing teams that want to clog up the middle of the field and pack their own defensive third. His explosiveness and close control, together with the acute drop of his shoulder, make him challenging to stop from getting inside.
One of the most intriguing young players in Europe right now is Gakpo. It is exceedingly challenging for defenders to contain him due to his pace and beautiful dribbling skills. Due to Gakpo’s strength, defenders have an even tougher time stopping him because he can use his size to his advantage. His athletic prowess would serve him well in England, where the Premier League is unquestionably a far more physically demanding league than the Eredivisie. He also possesses excellent technique and ball control. Additionally, he has excellent positional awareness and is quite adept with his movement. Gakpo excels at putting the ball in the net in addition to creating opportunities for his team.
Both these players at a young age have the world at their feet and having a team like Manchester United vying for your signature is no mean feat either. However, the winger who gets signed eventually will be down to who suits United’s system, rather than who is the better player. Ronaldo left United in 2009 as a right winger, remastered his game to a left winger, and returned to United as a striker, and yet, United do not have a mainstay right winger. The signing of Sancho was supposed to solve their problems but in his appearances for club and country, it was evident that the Englishman is more comfortable playing as a left winger. Signing Antony an out-and-out right winger, over Gakpo, another left winger definitely seems like a better option. Although the stats fall in favor of Gakpo, Antony is not so far behind that it justifies not sticking to a system.
Signing Antony would shift Sancho to the left, leaving Rashford with the choice to reinvent himself as a striker, a position where he flourished in when he first came onto the scene. If Rashford can work on his finishing and ability in the air, it will be the best solution for all parties with Ronaldo’s transfer away from England seeming more of a when than an if.
Practically, with PSG reigniting their interest in Rashford it would make sense to let him leave on a sizeable fee, but if Rashford can regain his form from two seasons prior he is definitely an untouchable, and every Old Trafford faithful wants to see Rashford succeed at the club.
Signing Gakpo on the other hand will force Sancho out onto the right, a position where he yet does not feel one hundred percent confident, and on the off chance that the signing does not work out, Manchester United will have both their wings weaker than they already are. However, if Ajax do not accept Antony’s sale, Gakpo will be the natural option. This again will lead to Rashford aiming for a starting role as a striker but will leave Sancho on the right wing unopposed.
Even if Gakpo is excellent, United’s left wing is the last that needs improvement in the attack. Given the Red Devils’ dearth of choices, the only way it makes sense is if Ten Hag has a strategy for turning Gakpo into a specialist striker. But if he is aiming for a winger, then keeping everything in mind, it is quite fair to say Manchester United are better off signing Antony. Although he will be more expensive than Gakpo it is a price that the English sleeping giants must be and are willing to pay.