'The team is better with Antony in it'

Tuesday 24 January 2023 22:30

Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag feels Antony is already contributing a lot to the team but believes there is more to come from the Brazil international.

The winger scored in his first three Premier League games and also netted a beauty in the Carabao Cup quarter-final win over Charlton Athletic, but there is clearly much more to his game.

His defensive responsibility often gets overlooked and it is clear he can provide a good balance when operating down the right flank.

Ahead of the Carabao Cup semi-final first leg at Nottingham Forest, Ten Hag was asked how he felt Antony has been performing since his summer move from Ajax. The manager responded by insisting the team plays better when the South American is involved.

Part two: Erik’s pre-Forest press conference Video

Part two: Erik’s pre-Forest press conference

Press conference part two | Ten Hag discusses Martial’s fitness, Antony’s form and Rashford’s future before Forest away…

"When he’s playing, the team is winning. That already gives a message of how well he is performing," said Ten Hag, at his press conference previewing the Forest tie.

"He can do better, I see space for improvement. For instance, and I think also you know this, we want him to be more direct and be more involved. But, as I said, the team is performing better if he is on the pitch.

"That’s a good thing, that’s a good base to build further. I think he has already made an improvement. In his first three [league] games, he scored three goals. Now he was scoring against Everton, he was scoring against Charlton, so also that fact, he has an impact. But I think with his capabilities, with his talents, he can do even more. But as I said, I think he has [made] a good contribution in the team."

Ten Hag was also quick to dismiss the suggestion, on the back of one heated exchange with Bruno Fernandes at Crystal Palace, that Antony's team-mates can be frustrated with his output. The manager pointed out that incident was quickly reconciled by the two players.

“I think that can happen," admitted Erik. "They are both players who play with the heart and, when they bring that in the game, they are on their best so it’s always a kind of balance.

"And always between players, sometimes emotions flare up but I think, in the second moment, they are already good with each other so that is not a problem. I think definitely the players are not frustrated with him."

Antony will hope to start in Wednesday's game at The City Ground, as Ten Hag's men look to take a positive step towards Wembley. The line-up will be announced on ManUtd.com and in the United App at 19:00 GMT, one hour before kick-off.