Antony is a classless clown – his Coventry celebration epitomises Man United’s decline under Erik ten Hag

United spent £85m on the Brazilian and he has not scored a single Premier League goal this season

Pete Hall
Monday 22 April 2024 12:45 BST
FA Cup: Ten Hag denies victory over Coventry on penalties was 'embarrassment'

The majority of Manchester United’s players were almost too embarrassed to celebrate such an undignified victory at Wembley.

Some others, like Harry Maguire, immediately headed across to shake their Coventry City counterparts’ hands – a gesture the gutsy Championship battlers deserved.

Antony, however, disgraced himself, his club and his teammates with an unprovoked reaction that epitomised everything that is hard to get on board with about this United team.

By cupping his ears in the direction of the Coventry players as United secured a penalty shootout success against a second-tier side who had lost three of their previous four games, Antony reminded everyone he lacks the temperament, to go along with his inauspicious talent deficit, required at the very top level.

It was an image that could, over the next weeks should the dwindling thread Erik ten Hag is hanging by finally give way, come to define the Dutchman’s time in Manchester.

Here is a player that Ten Hag hung his hat on, spending £85m, more than three times what United’s scouting department recommended he was worth, to bring him to Manchester as one of a legion of fellow arrivals from Ajax, tasked with firing his new side to better times.

A player who was not deemed good enough to start against a Championship team, given his meagre return of two goals all season, and when he did come on, the Brazilian looked out of his depth, facing an opposition whose squad cost a third of his transfer fee. A player who could, regardless of fee, go down as one of the worst signings in United’s history, and that is a packed field in the post-Sir Alex Ferguson era.

No Premier League player, past or present, had less of a right to do what Antony did.

An inability to read the room comes from the top.

“I see the mistakes we make, but it’s not an embarrassment, it’s a huge achievement,” Ten Hag said after the match. “The last 20 years, United was five times in the final but now we are two times in two years, it’s a huge achievement.”

Had Ten Hag come out and said throwing away a three-goal lead for the first time in 11 years, against a mid-table Championship team, is no way to win a football match, perhaps more supporters would have faith that the right man is in charge.

By focusing on the achievement rather than the inept, psychological fragility – three times in the last month United have conceded stoppage-time goals to deny them victory – Ten Hag remains as delusional as the player who he believed could awaken this sleeping giant from its slumber.

Antony celebrated by goading the beaten Coventry players
Antony celebrated by goading the beaten Coventry players (Getty)

Antony is just creating problems his embattled boss doesn’t need, especially now.

Not with new co-owner Sir Jim Ratcliffe, thoroughly unconvinced by Ten Hag thus far, in attendance. Others who’ll be making the call on Ten Hag’s future were also in the stands, unimpressed with what they were witnessing – Joel and Avram Glazer, attending a match together for the first time in five years, as well as new technical director Jason Wilcox and Ineos’ taskmaster Sir Dave Brailsford. The upper echelons of the United hierarchy had never been so omnipresent. More prying eyes to watch the humiliation unfold.

To see Antony drag United’s name through the mud in the most classless manner will not have gone unnoticed. The Brazilian is one of several current squad members who could be part of a summer fire sale of unwanted personnel to fund the Ineos rebuild. But who would want such an out-of-form forward with a character not befitting of the beautiful game? Ten Hag, after what he saw at Wembley, will likely be thinking the same.

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