It was a moment of exquisite but ultimately unnecessary skill.
Just outside the box with the scores tied at 0-0, Manchester United’s Antony produced a 720-degree-pirouette with the ball glued to the inside of his left foot while a Sheriff Tiraspol defender watched on.
After completing the spin, he passed the ball out to concede possession.
United eventually won its Europa League game 3-0 but almost immediately, Antony’s showboating prompted a furious reaction online and from pundits while his teammates defended him.
“Well that, for me, is ridiculous. He’s [Antony] done that then puts the ball out of play. It’s quite embarrassing actually. Doing that with nobody near him and then he puts the ball out of play,” former Wales international Robbie Savage said on BT Sport commentary.
“If I was the manager I would not be happy. You’re trying to win the game, move the ball quickly, nobody near him and he puts the ball out of play. Embarrassing. What was the point? If I was the manager and he did that again, I would drag him off.”
Manchester United’s manager Erik ten Hag replaced the winger at halftime, though he later clarified that the decision had been “more or less planned” to give Marcus Rashford and a returning Cristiano Ronaldo a chance to play together.
“I don’t have a problem with tricks as long as it’s functional,” Ten Hag said after the game.
“When there is a trick like that, it’s nice as long as it’s functional. If you’re not losing the ball, if you’re attracting players, then it’s OK – but if it’s a trick because of a trick, then I will correct him.”
But the furor continued on Friday, prompting Antony to release a statement defending himself.
“We are known for our art and I’m not going to stop doing what has brought me where I am!” he wrote on his Instagram story.
Fellow Brazilian and his national teammate Neymar also waded in, writing on his Instagram story, “Keep going that way, don’t change a thing! Onwards, youngster. Audacity and joy.”
Meanwhile, pundits such as Ian Holloway, a former professional footballer and manger, criticized his “disrespectful” trick.
“I don’t even know what he’s thinking,” Holloway told Sky Sports. “Unnecessary nonsense, you know, practice that off the pitch on the training ground but when you go out there, you have got to be realistic. He gave the ball away two seconds later, he kicked it straight out so come on. It’s disrespectful and it’s silly so grow up a bit.”
Antony’s Manchester United teammate Diogo Dalot acknowleged the criticism, telling Sky Sports that, “There is always going to be talks after a mistake. He missed the pass but if the pass went through, Casemiro was in a good position to receive the ball and probably assist or score a goal.
“It’s just part of his game, we are happy to have him.”
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