Antony seizes the moment to announce the arrival of Man United with a personality sure to delight Old Trafford

As far as escapological feats go, it ranked more as finding a way out of Ajax when an £85million fee was offered. Antony seemed trapped by the corner flag. Two defenders approached him. He faced the crowd more than his teammates, and the situation looked lost for a minor figure.

Until he conjured up something out of nowhere and almost a goal. He improvised a heel-heel to Diogo Dalot, who crossed right-back and Christian Eriksen’s volley went just wide.

It was a cheek and not the only one. There were the extravagant attempts to fool Oleksandr Zinchenko by waving a foot one way or the other while the Ukrainian watched a dead ball. There was an offer to praise Aaron Ramsdale from 35 yards. It didn’t succeed, but it showed the confidence of a player who would not be discouraged to become the second most expensive footballer in the history of the self-proclaimed greatest club in the world.

Antony’s Manchester United debut suggested he has the personality to play for them. Perhaps more importantly, it yielded a debut goal.

It’s no guarantee of fame. Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial, Wayne Rooney and Ruud van Nistelrooy all batted on their United arcs; less promising also Alexander Buttner, Nick Powell, Josh Harrop and Dan James. Debuts can be deceptive and Donny van de Beek was Ajax’s previous purchase in his debut appearance.

But at a point where United’s wisdom was questioned and even Ajax seemed to think the sums were excessive while pocketing them, it offered a reminder. Transfer fees are all the more important when transfers don’t work out, when replacements are needed soon, when losses are calculated by sorting out wrong casts, when spots on the site become problem positions. A game brings Antony no success, but a first goal was well scored.

A steady, sweeping shot was courtship for the reverse winger, Antony hitting Rashford’s pass with a first finish. When the Arsenal defense was pulled in, he had been waiting on the sidelines. He was determined and then delighted. A kiss-the-badge celebration in front of Arsenal fans could be aimed at endearing him to supporting United.

However, he had been waiting for the moment: not just the 35 minutes of the game, but in the midst of a summer of interest that culminated in a price tag that added pressure.

When he left, he was replaced by Cristiano Ronaldo.

In another respect they stand side by side. Antony is the 13th most expensive player of all time, separating Ronaldo from Ronaldo on the charts and denying Ronaldo a first start under Ten Hag.

If the Portuguese represents United’s biggest purchase on the right wing in his first stint and Bebe still remains the oddest, Antony is an oddity, not least because of his high regard.

The only three pricier buys in the Premier League are Jack Grealish, Romelu Lukaku and Paul Pogba, a trio whose experiences may not offer enough encouragement. Antony’s arrival was a sign of confidence in Ten Hag: United approved a fee equal to the combined costs of Erling Haaland and Sadio Mane, who offer a bit more pedigree.

But Antony caught the zeitgeist. This is part of the Premier League’s antonification. It’s the invasion of the Anthonys in their various disguises. On Saturday there was an opener for (Michail) Antonio, a winner for (Jaidon) Anthony and a hat trick for (Ivan) Toney. Ten Hag brought in Antony for Anthony (Elanga) while waiting for Anthony (Martial) to recover. The theater of dreams has become the theater of Anthony.

It was only Antony’s third game since March


But United’s recruiting strategy was based less on a name than on a country: the Netherlands. Ten Hag’s faith in the confidants and Eredivisie alumni is reaffirmed.

If part of Antony’s intent is to make Lisandro Martinez look big when they line up, the Argentine, who struggled in his first two games, looked like a fighter again. Tyrell Malacia’s speed and willingness to fight are reminiscent of Patrice Evra. Eriksen added class to a midfield in which Scott McTominay clattered around awkwardly, half a second late for everything.

Ericsen was wonderful. His pass to Bruno Fernandes resulted in Rashford’s first goal; He earned the assist for his second himself. A free transfer, he’s proof United can get value for money.

Understandably, Antony is not yet. Over time, his dislike of using his right foot can make him predictable, although he can leap into the field at will.

For €100m, United might have wanted a two-legged friend. You will get a sharper one. It was only Antony’s third game since March and if he’s any reason after missing two Ajax games, it was understandable that he was the first substitute. Some judgments should be postponed until he’s in the best of shape.

In the beginning, when Gabriel Martinelli electrified, Antony didn’t even look like the best Brazilian winger on the pitch. But the Arsenal striker had a goal chalked up. His United counterpart’s strike was on and Antony’s age was off to a flying start. Antony seizes the moment to announce the arrival of Man United with a personality sure to delight Old Trafford

Fry Electronics Team

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