Manchester United successfully qualified for the knockout stages of the Europa League with a comfortable 3-0 win over Sheriff Tiraspol, although the game was not entirely without controversy.
Cristiano Ronaldo scoring on his return to the team grabbed the headlines but an incident in the first half saw winger Antony criticized for allegedly performing his trademark “spin” trick.
With the game still goalless, the Brazilian collected the ball in acres of space, spanned twice through 360 degrees and then proceeded to misplace a pass that went straight out for a goal kick.
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New hair, same tricks.
Antony takes out his signature at Old Trafford. 🇧🇷 pic.twitter.com/ZdvjHP3iQV
— CBS Sports Golazo ⚽️ (@CBSSportsGolazo) October 27, 2022
Predictably, the double twist caused something of an uproar as fans on social media and pundits in studios debated whether a player expressing himself on the field before giving possession away unnecessarily was a good thing or a bad thing.
Antony’s spin might just be the most pointless skill I’ve ever seen in my life.
— Owuraku Ampofo (@_owurakuampofo) October 27, 2022
The Antony 360° spin trick is fascinating. Breathtakingly pointless. Probably not even very hard to do in the first place. And yet he clearly loves doing it and doesn’t seem to have any intention of stopping. Remarkable.
— Tom Williams (@tomwfootball) October 27, 2022
Roy Keane sees Antony’s turn in training pic.twitter.com/KAGDkM70rH
— No Context Keane (@NoContextKeaneo) October 28, 2022
“Grow up a little…” 😳
Ian Holloway says THAT Antony skill was “unnecessary nonsense” 🔊🔛 pic.twitter.com/eVRfppv28d
— Sky Sports Premier League (@SkySportsPL) October 28, 2022
🤷♂️ Jamie: “People dug out Antony and said it was embarrassing – I don’t care!”
— talkSPORT (@talkSPORT) October 27, 2022
It’s even been pointed out that Antony’s spin is nowhere near the most pointless piece of “skill” rolled out by a winger who has played for United, largely thanks to the efforts of one Andrei Kanchelskis.
Antony’s turn is not even the most pointless skill by someone who played on the right wing for Man Utdpic.twitter.com/CDPfAVbjjr
— Adam Hurrey (@FootballCliches) October 27, 2022
Handing out his player ratings for the game, ESPN’s own Rob Dawson awarded Antony a disappointing score of 4/10 after failing to make much of an impact against the Sheriff beyond his viral debauchery.
Antony performed the spin regularly and was even made to demonstrate it upon his arrival at United over the summer with the club post an admiring clip over their official social media channels.
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) September 1, 2022
Several prominent pundits expressed strong opinions after seeing the sheriff against the sheriff, with former United midfielder Paul Scholes quick to to belittle Antony for his fancy footwork by marking the trick as “ridiculous”. Fellow former United alumni Robbie Savage also branded the 720-degree carousel an “embarrassment” while commentating on the game.
However, it has also been pointed out that Scholes’ assessment may have been somewhat clouded by bad memories of South African midfielder Scara Ngobese do the same trick directly in front of him during United’s pre-season friendly against Kaizer Chiefs in 2008.
This is why Scholes hates that spin by Anthony because he was a victim of it when United played in South Africa 😂 https://t.co/chnGclI4c9
— andil.99 (@AndileMhlabane) October 28, 2022
Antony was substituted at half-time against the Sheriff, although United boss Erik ten Haag later insisted the switch was pre-planned and more a function of the Brazilian’s general lack of impact on the night at Old Trafford.
“I don’t have a problem with that [the spin] as long as it’s functional,” the Dutchman said after the game. “Also from him I demand more — more runs at the back, more often in the box, more followers in and more tempo dribbles, especially, and more play in the pocket .
Hague explained that Antony was replaced due to a lack of intensity, but also promised to “correct” the flamboyant 22-year-old on the right time and place to dig into his bag of tricks.
“We demand more dominance in this game and if there is a trick like that, it’s nice. As long as it’s functional, if you don’t lose the ball and you attract players, then it’s okay. But if it’s a trick . because of a trick, then I’ll fix him.”
Of course, the reaction to Antony’s turn has reignited the age-old debate about where the line is between genuine flair and unnecessary showboating when it comes to attacking football. Many creative players – many of them Brazilian – have made a trick their own over the years.
— UEFA Champions League (@ChampionsLeague) October 19, 2022
Indeed, we need look no further than Neymar who has adopted the “sombrero“ (a clever slap over the ball up and over an opponent’s head) at an early age and soon made it his own.
— UEFA Champions League (@ChampionsLeague) December 31, 2021
The Paris Saint-Germain star is also partial to a “rainbow movie,” catches the ball between his two heels and uses it to arc the ball over his marker.
Flip flap, elastico, akka or snake bite❓
— UEFA Champions League (@ChampionsLeague) January 11, 2022
Used by Ronaldo and Ronaldinho among others, the “elastic” or “flip-flap” has been a staple of the Brazilian side for many years.
Brilliant skill 💫
A BOSS no look assistance ❌👀
Class done ⚽️
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) December 5, 2019
Liverpool star Roberto Firmino has carved a nice little niche for himself as a prime exponent of the brutal “no look fits.”
✨ Las mejores CROQUETAS sobre el terrain de juego las hacia @andresiniesta8.
— LaLiga (@LaLiga) January 16, 2021
Known for his agility on the ball, Andres Iniesta perfects the “croquette“ — a quick move of the ball between his feet that allowed the former Barcelona midfielder to dart through gaps between defenders.
Kerlon’s seal dribbles were impressive but rarely ended well pic.twitter.com/NwR3ryT4rj
— James Dart (@James_Dart) 20 May 2020
Perhaps the most infamous of all signature tricks was the “seal dribble” performed by Brazilian forward Kerlon. The ball was snapped up and juggled on the forehead, usually until an angry defender put a stop to overly aggressive proceedings.