Antony could be Manchester United’s key to masking defensive woes in Europa League clash against Sevilla

Sometimes luck needs to be on your side to ensure a victory as Manchester United scraped out a 2-0 victory over Nottingham Forest at the City Ground on Sunday. United’s goal was a lovely take by Antony on Anthony Martial’s rebounded shot, but just like in Europa League, all eyes were on Harry Maguire in defense. Now all eyes may be on Antony to help weather the storm.

During the first half, Maguire potentially committed a handball offense trying to stop Taiwo Awoniyi in the box that wasn’t called by the referee. It seemed like Maguire, who conceded an own goal on Thursday against Sevilla, intentionally put his hand out to stop Awoniyi from having a chance at scoring and this season we have seen penalties given for less. If that’s given and Forest were to draw level, the City Ground would’ve been rocking and there’s a chance that the match ends in a different result.

This is after Maguire already received a yellow card only three minutes into the match for a tackle on Awoniyi. With both incidents happening in the first half, it’s easy to see how Sevilla’s comeback happened on Thursday in Europa League and why United’s injuries will worry the club for the return leg in Spain as well. Level at 2-2, the tie will be decided on Thursday.

Marcel Sabitzer is the latest name added to Erik ten Hag’s ever-growing injury list which now includes Marcus Rashford, Luke Shaw, Alejandro Garnacho, Lisandro Martinez, and Raphael Varane, the last two the team’s best center back duos. 

Some of these names have viable replacements but when three first-choice defenders are out, each match becomes more and more of a struggle. The Red Devils will need as much as they can get from Martial, which he seems set to provide but depending on the Sabizer injury, things could get even more challenging. 

Bruno Fernandes is also suspended for that game so it’s one that Sabitzer would likely start. Outside of Martial, the attack will need a focal point for who will push the ball forward and it could be Antony who registered a goal and an assist against the Tricky Trees. 

With the match opening, the Brazillian’s dribbling gave United freedom to move and even though he only put one of his five shots on frame, that’s more than enough when that one was the eventual match-winner. Ten Hag has been trying to unlock the Antony that he had at Ajax all season and with fewer attackers to compete with, Sevilla is a chance for him to show that he has arrived on a massive stage. 

The defense will be a concern but there isn’t much that can be done with the players on the roster. but if you can’t stop the opposition from scoring, the only thing that can be done is to outscore them and that’s something that the Red Devils certainly can do even without their talisman, Rashford. 

The goal ended a barren run for Antony and it couldn’t have happened at a better time. Now, United has secured a stronger hold on their top four place with Tottenham and Newcastle United both dropping points this weekend, but beating Sevilla in Europa League will need Antony to deliver more than he has before, knowing that the backline behind him may have their fair share of problems.

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