The last 135 minutes of football perfectly signifies why this Man Utd team will never achieve anything this season. It was pathetically scary in the first and it got worse in the second as Dominguez put Forest ahead as he found himself in plenty of space. Turner gifted us a way back as Rashford stroked it in for the equaliser. But in typical Man Utd fashion, soon after the equaliser, we conceded a carbon copy with Gibbs White on the end of it instead. With the significance of the win over Villa, may thought it would be the jolt that was needed. However, any fan that has watched this season knows it was to be a false dawn and Forest proved us all correct.
“Scouts were right, your signing’s…”
Having to rely on pieces you haven’t brought or sanctioned at least can be frustrating but it is a lot of what a new manager has to do when they first get through the doors. It is their job to ensure the players that come through the door are ones that are of a different level to those that he has at his disposal.
It’s a bigger problem when the ones you have brought in are arguably worse and that is the problem that Erik Ten Hag is facing with Antony. Prior to his arrival, scouts of United had perused over the Brazilian and came to an agreement that nothing more than £25m would be worth getting him out of Amsterdam. His former manager came through the doors and then this valuation went up 140%. Eventually, it would be the £86m figure that we all knew that would take Antony into the colours of Man Utd.
Now the valuation of is not to do with Ten Hag but the insistence on the player is. This is a player he has worked with before and one of which he should known his level. This was not a player that took the Eredivisie by storm, a league that is several levels below that of the Premier League. Even those that are able to put up numbers that show they have become too big to stay there, they are seldom able to translate it. Only the special ones do.
Antony just isn’t. He is far from it. Anything you want from an attacker is just not within the realms of his talent. He is not able to create any separation off the dribble, he refuses to run in behind, he does not have the ingenuity to play passes in behind to create for others, his crossing is below par, his ball striking is below par, his weak foot is bad, even for a left footer. That is just what he is able to do on an average day but that is dragged down even further by the sensational amount of air between his ears. He takes pleasure in slowing down attacks to the point where opponents are ecstatic when he has the ball on transition because he’ll definitely allow them to get back into shape.
It is hard to really even go further about how bad of a player Antony is. Technically, athletically, mentally, he is just an incredibly sub par footballer. One of which we saw today move Rashford and Garnacho out of positions where they had their best performances of the season. Of course, Hojlund’s illness played a part in it but also the lack of talent he possesses means that he has little other strength than the fact he pulls really wide on the right to give our players an option. He doesn’t even have the versatility to potential move across the pitch and offer anything.
Erik Ten Hag is in a bind because quite simply, the piece he is having rely upon is not just a signing that hasn’t and won’t work out but one where you question the sanity to think it would in the first place.
Empty Space Can Hurt Too
Then you see the decision that the manager made at half time and he’s just making a rod for his back more and more.
In the first half, while it was turgid to watch, at least was for both the sides. A large part of that was simply for the fact that Mainoo was often standing in the position you would want your defensive midfielder to be in. He blocked the first shot of the game with a header and it would be a theme of the first half where the young man was the one winning a lot of the headers when Forest were sending in crosses. He was not in the game much because Morgan Gibbs White was playing in that position but he too was not getting much joy. If anything, the clear change was to be the fact that the front three needed to be change.
Yet the Dutchman saw something completely different. The 18 year old was taken off for the introduction of Scott McTominay. Everyone was at a loss as to why and when you see the two goals, it was the exact positions that Mainoo probably would have stood in. Man Utd have been conceding goals from cut backs and passes into the D for as long as I could remember. McTominay isn’t a DM. His decisions to vacate space in order to follow a player wide or go wide to help double up with the full back were painful because it left Dominguez and Gibbs White in oceans of space. People need to remember that empty space can hurt too yet it is something that Man Utd have just failed to realise.