Why was Antony dropped to the bench by Man Utd? Erik ten Hag explains selection call vs Aston Villa
- Brazilian forward named among the subs
- Has rediscovered a spark of late
- Questions still being asked of his contribution
WHAT HAPPENED? The Red Devils welcomed the Villans to Old Trafford on Sunday looking to cement their standing inside the Premier League’s top four – while keeping their sixth-placed opponents at arm’s length. Ten Hag shuffled his pack for said contest, with Tyrell Malacia returning at left-back while Marcel Sabitzer’s presence in midfield allowed Bruno Fernandes to be pushed out into a wider attacking role. His presence there meant that Antony had to settle for a place among the substitutes, having seen questions asked of his value to the collective cause throughout a testing debut campaign in England.
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WHAT THEY SAID: Quizzed on why that decision was taken, Ten Hag told MUTV: “We have to divide the load of the players, that's one, also from a tactical perspective, you have a thought and you have a plan, and that's why the changes. He [Antony] has played so much so we have to protect him as well. Also, from a tactical point of view, I think it's a good choice to do it this way.”
THE BIGGER PICTURE: The Dutch coach also told BBC Sport of the need to freshen up his ranks during a hectic run of fixtures across multiple competitions: “We have a lot of games so we have to rotate. So now and then to divide the load of the players. They [Villa] didn't surprise me. It's a great manager, they have great players, and they were too low at the start of the season. They came up, don't have midweeks so they can prepare from week to week. That's an advantage and they do really well. It's clear and obvious they have a good strategy.”
IN TWO PHOTOS:
WHAT NEXT? United invested £85 million ($103m) in Antony when prising him away from Ajax during the summer transfer window of 2022, but they have seen the 23-year-old forward register just eight goals and two assists through 38 appearances.