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Antony makes instant impact on Man Utd debut as Brazilian shows he can be Erik ten Hag’s ‘missing link’ | Football News

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As Antony wheeled away in celebration, screaming in delight and thumping the badge on his chest, Cristiano Ronaldo rose to his feet in the dugout, hands above his head to applaud a goal which might just mark the beginning of a changing of the guard.

Manchester United have a new star now.

Antony, the club’s £86m Deadline Day signing from Ajax, marked his Manchester United debut with a clinically-taken strike which set Erik ten Hag’s men on their way to a fourth consecutive victory.

“What a start for him,” said Roy Keane on Sky Sports. What a start indeed.

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FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from Manchester United’s win against Arsenal

The Brazilian had only had a couple of training sessions with his new team-mates but it is a testament to how highly Ten Hag rates him that he went straight into the team to face Arsenal.

“He knows how we want to play,” shrugged the Manchester United manager, his coach for two seasons at Ajax, shortly before kick-off.

“He knows what we expect and demand from him. He can be a real threat in one-on-ones with his speed.”

And so it proved.

The fee, the second-highest Manchester United have ever paid, brings with it considerable pressure but Antony looked unfazed from the outset. His early touches were sharp and there was impudence to his play too. A backheel to pick out Diogo Dalot. A shimmy to win a foul off Gabriel Martinelli.

No wonder Ronaldo approved.

Antony was not afraid to try things and he lost none of his swagger when they did not come off.

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Roy Keane and Gary Neville discuss the turnaround in Manchester United’s form after their 3-1 win at home to Arsenal

His first attempt to carry the ball into Arsenal’s box ended in him being dispossessed by Gabriel Jesus. His first shot, having cut inside onto his favoured left foot, sailed high into the stands.

Still, though, he kept demanding the ball and kept getting it too. Manchester United supporters will be encouraged by how effectively he dovetailed with Marcus Rashford in particular.

There was industry out of possession as well.

When Arsenal seized control of the game in the first half, and Antony began to see less of the ball, he showed a willingness to track back, drawing raucous cheers from the stands with a firm tackle on Martinelli deep in his own half.

Those cheers were nothing, though, in comparison to what came next.

Antony’s goal, less than a minute after that challenge on Martinelli, caused Old Trafford to erupt.

Manchester United's Antony scores his side's opening goal
Image:
Antony scores Manchester United’s opening goal

It was beautifully worked, Christian Eriksen picking out Bruno Fernandes, who moved it onto Jadon Sancho and then Rashford. All the while, Antony, stationed high and wide on the right, watched Oleksandr Zinchenko get sucked inside and saw the space open up around him.

He timed his run well, ensuring he was the right side of Arsenal’s defensive line as he ran onto Rashford’s pass, and his first-time finish, curled into the far corner, gave Aaron Ramsdale little chance. “It’s a dream position for Antony,” said Sky Sports’ Gary Neville.

His confidence only increased after that.

Zinchenko, subjected to showboating from the 22-year-old earlier in the game, was dispossessed and then screamed at as Antony showed he has fire as well as quality. “A little bit of petulance,” said Neville after he took a swipe at Granit Xhaka.

Antony

There was audacity – most evident when he attempted to lob Ramsdale from a full 45 yards out, forcing a back-peddling save from the Arsenal goalkeeper – but glimpses of intelligence too.

Antony specialises at beating his man but he knows when to play it safe and find a team-mate, as he did when he picked out Fernandes with a clever pass between two Arsenal players shortly before half-time.

It helps, in that sense, to have the spent the past two seasons playing the Ajax way, and, of course, doing it under Ten Hag.

“I think we have all seen what a threat he is,” the Dutchman told Sky Sports afterwards.

Antony’s contribution ended earlier than he might have liked, his substitution for Ronaldo just before the hour mark a reminder that it may take a little time to adapt to the physical intensity of the Premier League. But his 58 minutes on the pitch were enough to show he can give United something different.

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Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag chats to the Super Sunday panel after the 3-1 win

“We missed a player on the right wing, because all the players who can play there, like Jadon Sancho, like Marcus Rashford, they prefer more the centre or the left side,” said Ten Hag.

“Now, we have the one who can play really well over on the right wing. That was a missing link.”

What is most exciting for Manchester United supporters, though, is that this is just the start for him.

“Today, his first performance here, he did well, but I think he can step up,” added Ten Hag. “I know him from Amsterdam and I know this is a different league, but there is potential and he will be even more of a threat to opponents than he was today.”

That is a tantalising prospect for Manchester United but Antony’s goalscoring debut suggests they might have a new star on their hands already. Ronaldo’s reaction suggests he agrees.





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Pakistan vs England | Day five morning highlights

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Morning session highlights from day five of the first Test between Pakistan and England in Rawalpindi.



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France beats Poland and more in today’s World Cup Daily Diary

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France’s Kylian Mbappé (left) and Poland’s Robert Lewandowski

France’s Kylian Mbappé (left) and Poland’s Robert Lewandowski
Photo: Getty Images

Today was about England and France eyeballing each other over their respective opponents, with the only drama being whether or not they would get caught looking too far ahead. They most certainly did not, engaging in a “Anything you can do..” dance that set them up for a glossy quarterfinal on Friday. Let’s get into the nuts and bolts.

Game of the day – France 3 – 1 Poland

Either choice would have been acceptable, if I’m allowed to give myself an out or an excuse, as both games followed kind of the same pattern. The chatter the past couple days has been around what to do against a team that’s sitting off of you and trying to nullify your space in midfield, thanks to the US’s struggle against such a side. One answer is, “have Kylian Mbappé.” Sadly, that’s only available to one team in this tournament.

It’s obviously more complicated than that, but not by much. Poland did their usual Poland thing, which was to pack five across midfield and hopefully limit Antoine Griezmann’s access to the ball while keeping both Mbappé and Dembele wide. The Poles actually looked a little more aggressive, a low bar for them admittedly, on the rare times they got the ball and might have had the best chances in the first half. Hugo Lloris had to pull off a great save to keep from shockingly going behind, along with a Raphael Varane goal-line clearance in addition.

But that was about it for Poland’s threat, because they’re Poland. And you can plan to keep Mbappé out wide or burden him with extra defenders, and he’s still going to open you up. To open the scoring for France was a matter of him drawing defenders to him just enough to find an alley to slip a through-ball to Olivier Giroud, which is the unheralded part of his game:

Again, it’s beyond easy and cliche to say goals change games, but when the team that’s the favorite and has been facing a low block all night scores first, it flips everything on its head. Poland couldn’t simply hold out and hope anymore. Which means more space for France, which means Mbappé has more space, which means…

The second goal, which is unfair and rude, got most of the plaudits but the first one is high on the stupid level too. You’re not supposed to be able to beat a keeper, especially one having the tournament that Szczesny was until this point, that effortlessly at the near post. Poland probably thought they had this covered, for just an instant, given that it did look like Mbappé waited too long and had his options narrowed. Except he always has an out, he always has an option. I guess any player always has an option if, “Release a Hadoken of a shot with minimal backlift” is in their holster.

If France has a worry, and it’s hard to tell if they do, it’s that Poland was able to get at them occasionally down their right side, where Jules Kounde looked a little out of place as a right-back. England certainly don’t lack options on the left side of their attack. But then, when you have No. 10 in your attack, are you ever all that worried?

Other results: England 3 – 0 Senegal

It’ll be washed away after the final score, but England did not look great before they took the lead, and just like Poland, Senegal had the best chance with the score at 0-0. Both teams will spend a while wondering what would have happened if they could have finished. On such margins…

Much like France, much like Argentina, much like the US even, England was facing a disciplined opponent whose first, second, and third aim was defending and cutting off space. But whereas France and Argentina called upon otherworldly individual brilliance, England went the otherworldly team brilliance route for their first goal:

This is what the US couldn’t do, but the US don’t have Harry Kane or Jude Bellingham. Bellingham shifts out a little wider and drops a little deeper, Kane does his thing where he drops in deeper but behind the opponent’s midfield line. The England defense feeds a ball through the lines to Kane who can then flick a pass to the on-rushing Bellingham, whose touch is so silky soft your knees just disappear and he can control it at full speed and get to running at the Senegal defense. Henderson follows him through the middle, both goal-side of the midfielders that had been tasked with marking them and keeping them from getting passes from the England defense. Kane completely flips the play on them. .

Much like France, the game flips when England take the lead, as Senegal couldn’t wait around. Whereas the US has Jesus Ferreira only occasionally attempting this, and also having a terminal case of “being Jesus Ferreira” and not Harry Kane. The US midfield wasn’t dedicated enough to dropping deeper or wider to try and either lose their markers or provide space for their forwards to dive into. And they simply don’t have this level of talent. That’s how you get what we got here last week (or Saturday, as it were). This is how you get to be England, prancing to the quarters and looking like a genuine favorite for the whole thing.

Senegal haven’t been great when they have to take the initiative in this tournament, as England really only had to focus on Ismaila Sarr. They were pretty easily picked apart for goals two and three:

Life’s easier when you have Jude Bellingham to dribble through an entire midfield.

England-France is almost too good for a quarterfinal, but that’s our treat. England’s strength, the Rice-Bellingham axis in midfield, is exactly where France have suffered some injuries and are a little inexperienced as a result. Griezmann makes them dangerous but he also leaves them a little lightweight in the middle. But they also have Mbappé, which is the punch-the-game-board answer to everything.

Goal of the Day

It’s a tie between England’s first, a symphony of passing and movement, and Mbappé’s third. We already posted both, so you can decide:

Did VAR fuck anything up?

Not today, Satan.

Did FIFA/Qatar fuck anything up?

No, but now feels like a good time that the broadcast of every game does not need a shot of Gianni Infantino in his fucking suite sitting in his fucking plush recliner every goddamn time. It’s a reminder of how we ended up with this hell tournament. Remember, originally FIFA thought they could hold this thing in the summer in Qatar, because all the people voting on it were not only bagging bribes for millions (allegedly) but they didn’t have to concern themselves with the heat. They would go from their air conditioned hotel suites to their air conditioned limos to their air conditioned skybox at the stadium and back again. Seeing Infantino sitting in one every game he attends is just about the starkest image of how such a thing like this ridiculous tournament could happen, because the guys making decisions are only the types to be sitting in that type of a chair at that portion of the stadium, only making considerations for guys who sit in that type of chair in that portion of the stadium.

Did Alexi Lalas say anything stupid?

After two weeks it’s getting harder and harder to actually distinguish words Lalas says more than just hearing his voice as a constant drone. It’s aggravating that Fox’s coverage of this has tried to mimic their NFL coverage’s most annoying habit, which is having their analysts not only narrate replays (not their job) but also trying to sound funny and cool while doing it. Lalas’s trick today was while doing postgame highlights of France’s win, attempting to advertise and tease his Power Rankings to follow as if we were waiting for them on the same level of the CFP standings. Power Rankings are a curse upon all sports coverage, and even more so when a dunderhead like Lalas is authoring them and justifying changing them based off one game or one half, and even more so beyond that when he treats them like some final tablet on the state of the game today. NO ONE GIVES A SHIT.



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Raheem Sterling leaves England World Cup camp after armed burglary at Surrey home

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Sterling did not feature in Sunday’s 3-0 win against Senegal and the FA said before the game that the Chelsea forward was “dealing with a family matter”.

Sources have confirmed armed burglars broke into Sterling’s home on Saturday night when his family were in.

Sterling was shaken up by news and, as soon as he learned about the incident, wanted to return home to check on the well-being of his three children.

Sterling has been determined to play a big role for England in Qatar and it is understood only his concern for his children pushed him to leave the squad and return home.

Asked whether he will figure for England again at the World Cup, Southgate said after the Senegal game: “We have got to wait and see.

“At the moment the priority is for him to be with him family and we are going to support that and him to have as much time as he needs.”

Pushed on the likelihood of Sterling returning to the England squad, Southgate said: “I really don’t know.

“At the moment it is a situation he needs time with his family to do deal with and I do not want to put him under any pressure. Sometimes football is not the most important thing and family should come first.”



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