On a bitterly cold night in Manchester, Old Trafford threw up surprises aplenty – and it wasn’t just their state-of-the-art WiFi still working despite winter kicking in.
Manchester United fought to a 2-1 home victory over Chelsea in a tussle between two sides who couldn’t have been more zapped for confidence, with Barclays bingo in full swing as Erik ten Hag’s side found a way to win.
Hilarious missed Chelsea chances? Check. Absolutely zero control in midfield? Check. Scott McTominay not doing much as a midfielder but then scoring a winning brace? Of course.
What certainly would not have won you a full house or even a line on Barclays bingo, however, was hanging your hat on Antony turning up the heat and skinning alive one of the greatest defenders of the modern era.
Like we said, it was an exceptionally weird night of football.
While Alejandro Garnacho earned the plaudits for his brilliant performance on the left flank – particularly in the second half – it was Antony on the right who quietly, and in spells, had another promising outing.
One thing you can’t fault about the Brazilian is his work rate. At the very least, he runs and he runs hard. When you’re at United, though, you’ve got to be able to do more than that.
Especially when you arrive with a Brazilian passport, a £90million price tag and a trademark spin that kids on astroturf across the country are dying to replicate.
Terminally mercurial, the 23-year-old has – correctly – come under fire for his inability to affect games or weigh in with any real piercing contributions.
And while against Chelsea the same pitfalls remained in terms of running himself down corridors and being indecisive when it came to crossing or shooting, there were glimpses that Antony was finally beginning to grow in confidence once again, with him enjoying having space to run into and a man to isolate on the counter-attack.
Of all the Chelsea players who could’ve fallen victim to an outrageous bit of skill from the misfiring Brazilian, though, none of us would’ve chosen Thiago Silva.
An undisputed legend of Brazilian football, Silva saw his career flash before his eyes with one slick nutmeg that had him staring aimlessly at the Sir Bobby Charlton stand thinking ‘what the f*ck?’
Receiving the ball with his back to the legendary 39-year-old, Antony produced a brief moment of sheer Joga Bonito brilliance that has seen him regain his passport.
Let’s give him his flowers. That had us off our seats and wincing for poor Silva.
39 and being spun like that on the halfway line? He’s a much braver man than any of us will ever be.
Most would question why he’s putting himself through such torment at that age, but the fact he’s somehow able to get back in and recover to halt Antony in his tracks moment later is exactly why.
It’s a shame Antony couldn’t use what is an absolutely outrageous nutmeg to burst away into empty space and find the killer ball, but we’ll let it slide considering the game he had and who he’d just managed to skin alive for a brief moment.
He’s still got a long way to go if he wants to make a success of his United career, but filthy nutmegs and flicks around the corner like that will never not pop us.
By Mitch Wilks