“For sure, we hope he will be the next star for Ajax.” It was July 2020 and Erik Ten Hag, Ajax manager at the time, was presenting Anthony, the club’s new £20m contract from Sao Paulo.
Tin Hag added: “We at Ajax are always trying to strive for the top, so I expect he will do his best to reach this level of expectations. We will see the rest in the future.”
Ten Hag was right to expect big things from Anthony – the Brazilian, just 19 when he agreed to his move to Amsterdam, quickly established himself as one of Ajax’s key players – but even he wouldn’t have expected that he might one day take him to Manchester United. very.
Anthony, now 22, scored 25 goals in 82 appearances for Ajax and broke into the Brazil squad in the process, but United’s willingness to pay a fee in the region of £80m raised eyebrows. Is it really worth it?
How did Tin Hag look like?
For Tin Hag, the coach who knows Anthony like few others, the answer is yes.
“Once Tin Hag went to Old Trafford, I thought he’d take Anthony with him, because Tin Hag did a great job developing this player,” said South American football expert Tim Vickery. Sky Sports News.
Anthony was “talented but very rude” when he arrived at Ajax two years ago, according to Vickery, a view shared by the coaches in charge of Brazil’s under-23 team at the time.
“He played for Brazil at the under-23 level, which is a big deal here, to qualify for the Olympics,” Vickery added.
“They played the vital game, the last game of the season, right before the pandemic at the beginning of 2020. They had to beat Argentina.
“Anthony was the first choice throughout the campaign and for the first time they dropped him. Why? Because he was playing as a winger, left footed, top right, and each time he slowed them down.
“He’d pick up the ball, put his powerful foot in and he’d take the momentum of the attacks. You were thinking at this point: raw.
“But Tin Hag got him and developed him into a fast young winger who can play on either wing, his decision-making has greatly improved and he can also get back to work and make a little change.
“So, once Tin Hag went to Manchester United, I thought, OK, Anthony is his man.”
Anthony quickly rose from the Brazilian Under-23 team to his first team, scoring two goals in nine matches under coach Tite, who described him as a player with “comparable technical characteristics” to Neymar, but his numbers for Ajax did not immediately stand out.
The winger did not reach double the number of goals he scored in either of his two Eredivisie campaigns, with a total of 18 goals scored, leaving him behind 18 other players in the division. He ranks outside the top ten in both shots on goal and opportunities created in the same time frame.
However, there was enough for Ten Hag to speak of his “incredibly impressive development” last season, and his progress was most evident in the Champions League stage.
Anthony was instrumental in getting Ajax to the knockout stages for only the second time in the last 16 seasons last year, twice tormenting Borussia Dortmund in the group stage, scoring two goals and providing four assists in seven games overall.
Tin Hag has always believed in his potential but also pushed him.
In March, after Anthony assisted Ajax in a 2–0 victory over AZ Alkmaar in the Dutch Cup semi-final, the Dutchman criticized his performance, warning him against future matches.
“He should focus on football,” Ten Hag said. “He was a total threat, but he has to turn that into returns and not worry about the frills or the boom. He has to play more effectively, because he had chances to make the last pass.
“He was obviously very dangerous and on the one hand I was enjoying him, his speed, his pressure, his dribbling risk, but he could also have made more use of his play.”
Another player may have felt these comments were harsh in the context of the 2-0 win but Anthony clearly sees the value of Ten Hag’s demands.
“Every player under his leadership becomes a better football player through his training,” he told the Dutch newspaper. de Telegraaf.
“Since my arrival he has given me a lot of confidence and belief in what I can do. I am grateful for that. I respect him a lot.”
Why are the fees so high
Ten Hag would be confident of continuing to improve Anthony if he moved to Old Trafford, but United will have to pay a premium if they want to make it happen.
Having already paid £56.7m to Anthony’s former Ajax teammate Lisandro Martinez, who is two years older than him and is 24, the Dutch club can expect an even higher fee for the player under contract until 2027.
“The problem they are facing is a financial one,” Vickery added. “The standard is that they actually went to Ajax and took Lisandro Martinez and paid a lot of money for it.
“Now, Anthony is a younger player, a more glamorous player, so you can’t go back to Ajax and say, ‘We bought Lisandro Martinez for £60m, can we get Anthony for less? “
“That’s not going to happen. So, if United were to get it, they’d have to spend a lot of money on it.”
The problem they face is a financial problem. The criterion is that they actually went to Ajax and took Lisandro Martinez and paid a lot of money for it.
Martinez isn’t the only major player sold by Ajax this summer either. They also allowed striker Sebastian Haller to join Borussia Dortmund for around £28m, while midfielder Ryan Gravenberch moved to Bayern Munich for £17m before that.
Throw in sales of Bear Shores to Turin (£8m) and Nicolas Tagliafico to Lyon (£3.8m) and Ajax received upwards of £100m in transfer fees, a figure that ensures there is little financial need to cash in on Anthony. very.
Instead, they can raise the asking price knowing that Manchester United – and their new manager in particular – have the will and resources to get the deal done at an inflated price.
Where it fits with Manchester United
Anthony can play on either wing. Its versatility is undoubtedly part of the allure of Ten Hag and United. But he feels more comfortable on the right, where he tends to drift inward and take advantage of his stronger left foot.
Most of his shots tend to come from that side and he has a habit of creating chances from there as well, taking diagonal crosses into the penalty area from the ‘half distance’ between the wing and midfield.
United have a good stock in the wide positions already, but Marcus Rashford prefers to work on the left, while Jadon Sancho, who has appeared on the right in each of his three Premier League games this season, is a good player in that side. . The same is true of young Anthony Ilanga.
With Rashford and Anthony Martial also able to play as central strikers, if Tin Hag is indeed going to continue to overlook Cristiano Ronaldo after Monday’s win over Liverpool, there is a potential chance of Anthony to the right of Tin Hag’s attack.
There are reasons to believe that it could fit in with style and placement.
Like Martinez, his former teammate in Amsterdam, Anthony already has a thorough understanding of Ten Hag’s tactical approach and system of choice.
He has the right attributes of Manchester United’s identity on the counter-attack as well. With his speed and directness, it’s not hard to imagine Anthony playing a role similar to that of Rafsford and Sancho during Monday’s delightful win over Liverpool.
“In this wonderful tradition of playing on the wing that Old Trafford has, you can really imagine the fans loving what Anthony can provide because the talent is there and Ten Hag has done a good job developing it,” Vickery added.
Anthony also introduces the industry away from possession. Ten Hag demands a lot of pressure from his attacking players and Anthony was the key to that at Ajax. In fact, during his time in the Eredivisie, only five players won possession in the final third more times than him.
It’s just another reason why his former coach is now determined to take him to Manchester, just as he did in Amsterdam from Sao Paulo two years ago.
The fee ensures that the pressure to live up to expectations will be higher than at Ajax. But Tin Hag will support him to deliver him again.