Manchester United’s resurgence faces a very stern test against the in-form Arsenal this afternoon (4pm). The Gunners are the only team in England’s top four divisions still with a perfect record this season. They stand on five wins from five and have only conceded less goals than Brighton, while heading into this weekend only Manchester City and Liverpool had scored more.
But as United look to prove they really have turned a corner under Erik ten Hag after three straight wins, the Dutchman could unleash an exciting new double act on Arsenal to excite Old Trafford. That double act is Jadon Sancho on the left-hand side and Antony on the right.
Antony trained on Friday and Saturday after completing an £85.5million move from Ajax and could be the ideal addition to the front line against Arsenal to mix things up. The Brazilian was officially unveiled on deadline day on Thursday and could bring some unpredictability to the United attack.
United will be eager to get at the expected Arsenal back four of Ben White, William Saliba, Gabriel Magalhaes and Kieran Tierney. And Antony will be raring to go on his debut.
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That the Gunners are without Thomas Partey, Mohamed Elneny and Oleksandr Zinchenko of course makes them more vulnerable against players with the skill and creativity of Antony. Rio Ferdinand has already warned about his ability to isolate defenders.
“What does Antony bring? He brings his trickery, he brings that unpredictable Brazilian element, a fantastic technical football player,” Ferdinand said this week. “He’s a man who’s a box full of tricks. He’s someone who wants to beat people but he has got an eye for a pass as well.
“He can create, he can slide balls through for the attacking players and people who make good runs off of him. What he does like to do is tease players in, bring defenders towards him which creates space in behind and that enables him to find the runner with the great vision that he has.”
Much has been made of the fact Antony supplied ‘only’ eight goals and four assists in 23 Eredivisie matches last season for champions Ajax. But Arsenal will not want to underestimate the 22-year-old’s abilities or face being burnt.
And in Sancho, who has two goals in his last three matches, they have a player capable of being just as dangerous on the opposite side. The England international spent much of his time last season on the left and did not have the desired impact but that was in a more disjointed attack and more disjointed team.
Yet while his numbers back in his homeland are yet his Bundesliga statistics, it is evidently clear Sancho remains a talent with world-class potential. He was actually rather quiet on the right after a well-taken goal against Leicester in midweek.
But having him on the left, cutting in on his stronger right foot, with Antony doing the opposite on the other flank could cause real issues for Arsenal full-backs White and Tierney.
In the two 22-year-old wingers, Ten Hag will know they have two tricky wide-man who can be cornerstones of the United attack for the best part of the next decade. And there would be no finer way for the pair to begin than by downing a high-flying Arsenal.