Man United’s Antony spins on ball, puts internet in a twist

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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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.

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.

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.

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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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Used by Ronaldo and Ronaldinho among others, the elastic” or “flip-flap” has been a staple of the Brazilian side for many years.

Liverpool star Roberto Firmino has carved a nice little niche for himself as a prime exponent of the brutal “no look fits.”

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.

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.


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