Manchester United are gaining momentum in the Premier League and several of Erik ten Hag’s brave selections are paying dividends after a tough start to the campaign.
After losing their opening two games against Brighton and Brentford, United have won four games on the spin – a run only matched during the 2020/21 season when United finished second.
Against Arsenal, four of Ten Hag’s outfield signings started the game and the fifth player was brought on as a substitute to secure all three points.
One of those players, the big-money signing of Antony, took centre-stage at Old Trafford. The 22-year-old had only completed his move from Ajax 72 hours earlier but still started the game against the league leaders.
He became the 21st United player to score on his debut as he calmly slotted the ball past Aaron Ramsdale to give United the lead after 35 minutes.
Antony was withdrawn from the game early in the second half but he had already struck an understanding with Diogo Dalot, a fellow Portuguese speaker on the right-hand flank.
Speaking after the game, Ten Hag opened up on the developing partnership on that side as he reflected on the crucial three points against the Gunners.
“They filled it out well. The advantage is that they both speak Portuguese, so communication is good in that regard. From this point on, he has to get stronger and he will be, because he has the potential.
“Of course he had nerves for this match, but healthy nerves. He can perform very well under stress and we have seen that.”
United fans will be eager to see plenty more of the action that dispatched Arsenal in the future, with Ten Hag confident his new star player will adapt to the new surroundings.
Antony’s debut was far from a YouTube highlight reel but he showed great composure to score his first goal from the club and the understanding between him and his teammates will only improve.
Communication with Dalot is going to be crucial. Antony doesn’t speak English yet and Bruno Fernandes and Casemiro are also able to ease him into the side.
Antony is the first left-footed out-and-out winger at the club for several years and United will reap the benefits of adding that balance.