Last month, Manchester United finally confirmed Erik ten Hag as the club’s new manager. He will leave title-winning Ajax to sign a contract with United until 2025, with the option to extend it for a further year.
With the Dutchman set to take over at the end of the season, he will have a busy start to life as United manager. There is a desperate need for some fresh faces in the United squad, and, with the transfer window opening soon, here is a look at two players that Ten Hag could bring with him from Ajax.
Antony – Market Value: £31.5 Million (transfermarkt)Embed from Getty Images
Brazil international Antony is one player who has been linked with a move to Manchester United, especially since the rumours of the club appointing Erik ten Hag intensified. There is a belief amongst United fans that to create more balance in the attack, a left-footed winger, who is comfortable playing on the right-hand side is needed. Antony fits this profile.
This season, the winger has put up some solid numbers for Ajax. He has 12 goals and 10 assists in all competitions this season; his total goal contributions combined mean that this campaign is now his best for Ajax in terms of goals and assists. Unfortunately, an injury ended Antony’s season prematurely, but not before he scored a vital winner against Feyenoord in late March, in what turned out to be his last game this season.
Antony, like so many Brazilian players, is a skilful footballer who loves to have the ball at his feet. He often leaves defenders in the dust with his tricks, and his confidence on the ball is something which comes across when watching him play. His 11.60 progressive carries per game, which places him in the 98th percentile across Europe, is a good example of how positive he can be when in possession of the ball. Antony’s average number of assists per game is also some of the best across Europe. On average, he gets an excellent 0.78 assists per game, ranking him in the 99th percentile.
The biggest downside if United were to sign Antony is his lack of versatility. United are rumoured to be interested in signing a versatile forward who can play in a number of attacking positions. Antony only really has experience playing as a winger, and, in a summer where United are seemingly prioritising a new striker in their offensive positions, this could mean they decide against signing the Brazilian.
Overall, signing Antony this summer could be exactly what United need to help take the squad to the next level. He could certainly add another creative element to United’s squad and increase the competition for places out wide. Antony could be the right-winger United have been missing for the last few seasons.
Jurrien Timber – Market Value: £27 Million (transfermarkt)Embed from Getty Images
Jurrien Timber is one of the most versatile defenders in Europe. Naturally a centre-back, Timber is also accustomed to playing as a right-back and can even play in midfield. This versatility, as well as his exceptional progressive carrying and passing stats, have made Timber one of the best young defenders in Europe.
Timber’s progressive stats are exceptional. Statistically, he is one of the best defenders around when it comes to progressive passing, averaging 6.45 per game, which ranks him in the 99th percentile across Europe. Similarly, his progressive carrying numbers stand out. Timber also averages 6.45 progressive carries per game, ranking him in the 97th percentile amongst players in Europe. These are outstanding numbers.
One of the big concerns about Timber is his height. He stands at just 5’9, and stats suggest winning aerial duels is a weak point in his game. He currently wins an average of 1.26 per game in comparison to other centre-backs across Europe. Playing at centre-back for United could expose this weakness, although, at only 20 years old, is something that could be improved over time. Something else to bear in mind is the fact that, if he played at right-back, this weakness could be less of an issue. It is certainly not something that would put United off from signing Timber.
Having a player as versatile as Timber within the squad could massively benefit United ahead of the 2022/23 season. Being able to play the Dutchman at centre-back, right-back, or even in midfield gives Ten Hag a lot of options. There would even be the potential to play him on the right-hand side of a back three, a role in which he has the potential to be excellent in. The Dutchman’s natural pace and excellent reading of the game are also two positive aspects of his game.
If United were to sign Timber, there is certainly a good chance that he would thrive. He will still be coached by Ten Hag, who would most likely utilise him in a similar system to what he did at Ajax. Of course, it can take players from other leagues time to settle in the Premier League, and this is something important to bear in mind. However, if this is a transfer that does happen, it will be an exciting deal for United.