Antony's absence adds to Man Utd's woes

football15 September 2023 06:29| © AFP
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Antony © Getty Images

Manchester United will begin life without Antony against Brighton on Saturday, with the Brazilian's absence to address domestic abuse allegations compounding the club's troubled start to the season on and off the pitch.

Erik ten Hag's men have lost two of their opening four Premier League games, while protests continue in the stands against unpopular owners the Glazer family, who appear to have put their attempt to sell the club on hold.

Antony was dropped from Brazil's squad earlier this month following allegations of assault made against him by an ex-girlfriend.

The 23-year-old, signed from Ajax for £86 million ($107 million) last year, has denied the claims, saying he is "the victim of false accusations".

But he has been given a leave of absence by United as police in Brazil and Britain investigate.

Only last month, United decided Mason Greenwood had no future at Old Trafford after separate abuse allegations.

The 21-year-old had faced charges including attempted rape and assault.

Prosecutors announced in February this year that the case had been dropped after key witnesses withdrew and new evidence came to light.

Greenwood has since joined Spanish club Getafe on loan, but only after a public outcry when initial reports suggested United were planning to reintroduce the striker to the team.

The absences of Antony and Greenwood should have opened the door for Jadon Sancho to finally live up to his £73 million price tag.

But the former Borussia Dortmund winger has been instructed to train on his own for a public spat with Ten Hag before the international break after being left out of his squad for the 3-1 defeat to Arsenal.

The Dutchman cited Sancho's sub-standard performances in training for his omission, only for the player to hit back that he had been labelled a "scapegoat for a long time".


Ten Hag's problems are not restricted to his forward line.

Former United captain Harry Maguire was expected to leave during the transfer window after slipping to fourth-choice centre-back.

But Maguire ended the Arsenal game alongside 35-year-old Jonny Evans, with Raphael Varane, Lisandro Martinez and Victor Lindelof all injured.

Deadline-day recruit Sergio Reguilon is the only natural left-back available to Ten Hag, with Luke Shaw and Tyrell Malacia sidelined.

Brighton spoiled Ten Hag's first game in charge of United with their first-ever win at Old Trafford just over a year ago.

A repeat of that success for the Seagulls would not be a shock given their rise under Roberto De Zerbi and United's patchy early-season form.

Even in beating Wolves and Nottingham Forest at home, lacklustre United were far from impressive.

Forest blew a two-goal lead, while only wasteful finishing and the controversial denial of a penalty left Wolves empty-handed.

Ten Hag will hope that two of his new signings can help turn the tide.

Morocco international Sofyan Amrabat could make his debut and bring some much-needed dynamism to an ageing midfield trio of Casemiro, Christian Eriksen and Bruno Fernandes, which has been easily overrun.

Danish striker Rasmus Hojlund, signed from Atalanta, is also set to make his first appearance at Old Trafford after an impressive cameo off the bench against Arsenal.

Ten Hag was widely praised for the progress made in his first season as he restored United to the Champions League and ended a six-year trophy drought by lifting the League Cup.

But that credit will quickly run out unless the former Ajax boss can get United back on track quickly.