Erik ten Hag believes summer signing Antony can do more for Manchester United, but insists he is happy with the winger’s performances this season.
Antony arrived at the club from Ajax on deadline day in a deal worth up to £86m and has had a mixed start to his first season in the Premier League.
The Brazil international’s performances have come under scrutiny and there has been criticism of his end product, with the winger substituted during the 3-2 defeat at Arsenal on Sunday after an ineffective display. Former United captain Gary Neville is among those who have called for more from Antony this week.
“I want to see more from Antony, £90m signing and I think to take him off is a disappointment because you would like to think like Gabriel Martinelli and Bukayo Saka, who are also young players, that Marcus Rashford and Antony could’ve been the ones on the other side of it, counter-attacking for United,” Neville said on his podcast.
“But it’s just not happening for him at this moment in time and he has got a bit of work to do. Obviously he is newer to England than the other two.”
Ahead of Wednesday’s Carabao Cup semi-final with Nottingham Forest, Ten Hag has discussed Antony’s adaptation to a new division and believes the 22-year-old can do more. However, he insisted that he has been happy with the winger’s contribution this season.
“I think… every time… he’s not losing games. When he’s playing [full games], the team is winning,” Ten Hag told his pre-match press conference. “That already gives a message of how well he is performing.
“He can do better, I see space for improvement. For instance, and I think also you know this, we want him to be more direct and be more involved. But as I said, the team is performing better if he is on the pitch. That’s a good thing, that’s a good base to build further. I think he has already made an improvement.
“In his first three games, he scored three goals. Now he was scoring against Everton, he was scoring against Charlton, so also that fact, he has an impact. But I think with his capabilities, with his talents, he can do even more. But as I said, I think he has [made] a good contribution in the team.”
Ten Hag was asked whether Antony is adapting as quickly as he had hoped having worked with the winger at Ajax and discussed his relationship with his teammates. The Dutchman denied frustration from some of the squad after Antony was involved in an exchange with Bruno Fernandes during the draw at Crystal Palace this month.
“I think that can happen,” he said. “They are both players who play with the heart and when they bring that in the game, they are on their best so it’s always a kind of balance. And always between players, sometimes emotions flare up but I think in the second moment they are already good with each other so that is not a problem. I think definitely the players are not frustrated with him.”