Transfer Talk: Ten Hag is still desperate to be United with Antony
Manchester United’s summer-long pursuit of Ajax winger Antony looks set to run into the final week of the transfer window.
Erik ten Hag is desperate to land the Brazilian winger after he played such an important role for him during his final two years in charge in Amsterdam.
But the Dutch giants have reportedly rejected United's latest bid for the 22-year-old international.
So why is Antony seemingly such a key part of Ten Hag’s plans?
In hot pursuit
United have chased Antony since the window opened and were first linked with him in late May.
Their main problem is Ajax's reluctance to sell an important player, having already lost their manager and centre-back Lisandro Martinez to the Red Devils.
And the Eredivisie champions are in a position of strength with the Brazil star's contract running until 2025.
United's last offer was said to be £67million but Ajax are believed to be holding out for a whopping £84m.
A winger by trade, Antony has scored 18 goals in 57 appearances for Ajax since moving from Sao Paulo in July 2020.
His tally includes two goals and two assists in the three games he has played so far this term.
Though he is left-footed, Antony played on the right in Ten Hag’s 4-3-3 system.
But that does not mean he cuts inside all the time, with the Brazilian adept at going past his full-back and providing cut-backs for onrushing team-mates.
Antony is also a diligent presser with a knack for knowing when it is the right time to do so — he will not shirk his off-the-ball responsibilities.
The current incumbents
United are not short of wide forwards who have the potential to be deadly.
Jadon Sancho endured a fairly miserable first season following his move from Borussia Dortmund, while Marcus Rashford was in the worst form of his career last term.
But they produced eye-catching displays as both found the back of the net in last night’s 2-1 win over arch-rivals Liverpool.
Sancho started on the right, with Rashford as the central striker and youngster Anthony Elanga on the left.
Yet Antony still appears to be United's No1 target as they prepare for away days at Southampton and Leicester before the window slams shut.
In the know
Antony is on the radar of numerous clubs yet it is his familiarity with Ten Hag’s system that means United are moving quickly.
And it is clear the Brazilian holds his old boss in high regard.
Speaking last week, Antony said: "Manchester United will improve at his hand. At his previous clubs, he has proven his method works.
"Erik has been super important to me. I am grateful to him and I will always cheer for Erik after working so closely together.
"I have not been able to celebrate or cheer for him as he got no points yet. I couldn’t until now anyway and that makes me sad. But knowing Erik, I am convinced he will turn the tide soon."
United are not always an easy sell to players after a dismal few years but Antony will need little convincing.
Old Trafford is calling
After training on his own, Antony was not in the squad for Ajax’s 1-0 win at Sparta Rotterdam last Sunday.
The club's hierarchy are trying to decide whether to cash in and allow him to move to Old Trafford or keep hold of a prized asset.
But it is clear where Antony sees his future — at the Theatre of Dreams.
Speaking to the Dutch media, he said: "I can’t [commit to Ajax].
"Now I am focusing on playing football and I have put all other matters in the hands of my agents and my brother. They will advise me on what is best."
Another Ten hag reunion seems likely before 11pm on September 1 when the window closes.