Manchester United

Antony: His tough upbringing, best position & relationship with Erik ten Hag

Jamie Spencer
Man Utd have signed Antony for £85m
Man Utd have signed Antony for £85m / Soccrates Images/GettyImages
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Antony is the latest in a growing list of South American players to grace Old Trafford following his £85m arrival at Manchester United from Ajax.

The 22-year-old Brazilian was one of Erik ten Hag’s earliest summer targets, but it has taken until the last day of the transfer window to finally sign off the deal after months of back and forth.

Without even kicking a ball, Antony is already popular among fans, especially those who may have seen highly-skilled highlights from his two eye-catching seasons at Ajax.

Antony was just 20 when Ajax brought him to Europe from Sao Paulo, having shown interest in him long before actually securing a deal – a €3m bid was rejected in 2018 and they ended up agreeing on a total fee nearly of €22m in 2020. The timing of his arrival also meant he effectively served as a replacement for Hakim Ziyech on the right flank when the Moroccan international left for Chelsea.

He is capable of playing on both wings and as a ‘number 10’, but has most often been seen on the right throughout his club and international career.

In his own words, Antony is a winger who likes to dribble with the ball. That stands to make him a vertical and direct threat at his new club.

“My strength is my technique, dribbling, creativity,” he told ManUtd.com.

“I think creativity in attack is my main strength: Dribbling, passing, playing good balls into my teammates, I think these are my strengths and the difference I make. Dribbling – it's the Brazilian way, isn't it? Dribbling, speed, scoring goals and celebrating with the fans and everyone else.”

Growing up in a Sao Paulo favela dubbed Inferninho, which translates as Little Hell, Antony joined his home city club as a 12-year-old. Football has been his escape – he claims to have never had a 'Plan B' beyond making it pro – but his difficult upbringing has shaped him for the better nonetheless.

The player has recalled that he would struggle without football boots, without enough food to eat, and even having to bail water out of his flooding house in the early hours of the morning.

“They were very difficult times but I went through it all with a smile. I'm certain it was all worth it as I'm reaping the rewards now for what was planted in the past,” he added.

Those challenges even taught him what ‘real pressure’ is compared to playing football.

“Real pressure was when I lived in a favela and left for school at nine in the morning not sure whether I would be able to eat again until nine in the night. That's some pressure,” the player has said in the past, more grateful for his life now because of what he has known.

Antony shares a close bond with his family, where being humble and grateful is valued, and would even bring everyone whenever he signed new contracts at Sao Paulo. His character, combined with natural flair and talent, promise to make him a good fit for the new United project.

What’s more, now that he is in Manchester, Antony has the familiarity of international teammates Fred and Casemiro – he also shares Sao Paulo roots with the latter – as well as Erik ten Hag, who has been such a vital figure in his fledgling career to date.

“Erik ten Hag is an excellent coach,” he told ManUtd.com. “I’ve got tremendous respect and affection for him. From the moment I arrived at Ajax he treated me so well and put his faith in me. It’s not by chance I had such a great run of form under him. We developed this mutual trust and closeness.

"He's a manager I have respect and affection for – when I found out he was moving here I wished him all the best and all the success he deserves. Now I'm alongside him once again, I hope to make history and develop and grow further under his management.”  


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