Antony move could give Manchester United something Jose Mourinho l…

Former Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho knew exactly what he was doing as he went in pursuit of midfielder Fred four years ago. The Portuguese was eager to revitalise his stagnant midfield ahead of his third and, in the end, final season at Old Trafford, with the Shakhtar star high on his list.

Mourinho identified Fred as the man to fill the void left by Michael Carrick’s retirement after an exhaustive search for midfield talent. He had compiled a dossier of midfielders from around the world – telling scouts to watch Jean Michael Seri, Marco Verratti, Arturo Vidal and Sergej Milinkovic-Savic as he narrowed down his targets.

In the end, they settled on Fred, a player who had been pursued by Manchester City in the January window before Shakhtar rejected what was described as a meaningful bid. Pep Guardiola’s side switched attention to Jorginho, who opted for a reunion with Maurizio Sarri at Chelsea. United were left with a free run at the vigorous midfielder.

READ MORE: Barcelona manager Xavi responds to Manchester United interest in Frenkie de Jong

In April of that year, Mourinho tactically spoke to the Brazilian press and paid homage to the high tapestry of talented players the nation had produced.

“I think a team without a Brazilian isn’t a team,” Mourinho told ESPN Brazil. “I think their talent is fantastic and the creativity of the Brazilian player cannot be measured. If a European team, like very much European, could have a Brazilian in their squad, it would bring a Brazilian ‘thing’ to the game and I think that’s very important.”

Two months later, Fred was unveiled as United’s second signing of the summer after Diogo Dalot, becoming the 100th player Mourinho had signed in his complete career.

Four years on and United could well be looking to add another Seleção star to their side this summer, with Erik ten Hag believed to be considering a possible swoop for Ajax winger Antony.

Last week, Ten Hag admitted ‘there is no agreement in place that would exclude him from taking players to Manchester United’, a comment which naturally fuelled further suggestions of a move for Antony this summer.

United are in the market for a right-sided attacker at the end of the season, though it is not a priority given the glaring issues in other places in the squad. Mason Greenwood’s suspension has amplified the need for a new specialist in the position, with United overstocked on right-footed forwards who prefer to play on the left-hand side of attack.

There is nevertheless great hope that Amad, signed two years ago from Atalanta, could be a long-term solution to the right wing issues, but his expectations might need to be lowered after his poor loan spell with Rangers this season.

In contrast, Antony, now a complete Brazil international, played a meaningful role in Ajax’s successful title bid this season, netting 12 goals and registering 10 assists in just 33 appearances. Those stats would no doubt have been already more impressive had a recent ankle injury not left him sidelined for the final matches of the season.

He certainly would bring the samba stardom to their attack.

One of the matches he missed was the Dutch cup final defeat to PSV Eindhoven, a game in which Ten Hag rued missing the 22-year-old wing wizard.

“Without Antony, it is all a bit less fast and dynamic on the right, which also makes it more difficult for the team. Then the spaces become a lot smaller,” he said.

Ralf Rangnick has already advised United to sign two forwards at the end of the season, and the position could become already more of an issue if Anthony Martial joins Edinson Cavani in leaving the side this summer.

Ten Hag and Antony

With an overreliance on Cristiano Ronaldo, it is clear United will need to find a way to supplement their strike force, and Rangnick indicates the addition of a versatile wing option might be one way to solve the conundrum.

“Modern strikers do not necessarily have to be strikers,” the interim boss pointed out recently. “Liverpool or Manchester City have five or six top-class strikers. If you ask me if Gabriel Jesus or [Jack] Grealish is a winger or a striker, they can all play there. Mason Greenwood would have been one, but after the West Ham game, he was no longer part of the squad.”

Ten Hag’s answer could well be hiding in the most obvious place. Their former manager would be sure to approve in addition.

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