Manchester United enjoyed a famous night under the Old Trafford floodlights on Thursday, defeating Barcelona in the Europa League, and this could be the catalyst to truly ignite Erik ten Hag’s revolution at the club.
The 4-3 aggregate victory means that United are still in with a chance of winning four trophies this season, although the Dutchman will be eager to keep any hype to a minimum as he seeks to end the club’s six-year trophy drought on Sunday in the Carabao Cup final.
Despite being 1-0 down at half-time against the La Liga side, Ten Hag introduced Antony for Wout Weghorst, and this alteration in the attacking dynamic changed the game in United’s favour, with the Brazilian’s intensity offering a different threat.
For the Carabao Cup final against Newcastle today, the 22-year-old should be unleashed from the start, as he could pose the Magpies all sorts of trouble.
Will Antony start against Newcastle in the Carabao Cup final?
Although he has experienced some teething problems since his move to the Premier League last summer – notably being dubbed a “YouTube footballer” by talkSPORT host Andy Goldstein – the attacker has still scored six times and registered one assist in all competitions for United, proving that he can offer an effective threat from the wide areas.
He received a Sofascore rating of 7.2/10 against Barcelona despite playing for only 45 minutes and he managed three shots in total, took 28 touches, won two duels and attempted two dribbles, both of which were unsuccessful.
Across four Carabao Cup matches this season, the £200k-per-week winger has averaged 2.5 shots per game while making 0.8 key passes and winning possession 1.5 times per match, proving to Ten Hag that his previous performances in the competition merit a start in the final at Wembley.
Writer Emmanuel Ayamga praised Antony’s display against Nottingham Forest in the semi-finals at the end of January, claiming that the 22-year-old was “superb” that night, and the regular run of outings he has received recently has certainly improved his performances. In three of his last four games, he has received a Sofascore rating of 7.0 or higher, having failed to do so in the four matches prior to that run.
Ten Hag will be looking to field a full-strength team against Newcastle today despite the efforts against Barcelona on Thursday night, and with a trophy at stake, the aim will undoubtedly be to win the League Cup for the sixth time in United’s history.
Starting Antony could go a long way in enhancing Ten Hag’s prospects of winning his first piece of silverware as United manager.