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 the first-half incident saw winger Antony draw criticism for allegedly showing off performing his trademark “spin” trick.
With the game still goalless, the Brazilian collected the ball in acres of space, did a 360 degree twice and then misplaced a pass that went straight to goal.
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New hairstyle, same tricks.
Antony draws his signature at Old Trafford. 🇧🇷 pic.twitter.com/ZdvjHP3iQV
— CBS Sports Golazo ⚽️ (@CBSSportsGolazo) October 27, 2022
Predictably, the double spin caused some uproar as fans on social media and pundits in the studios debated whether a player expressing himself on the field before giving the ball away unnecessarily was a good or bad thing.
Antony’s flip might be the most pointless skill I’ve ever seen.
— Owuraku Ampofo (@_owurakuampofo) October 27, 2022
Antony’s 360° spin trick is fascinating. Absurdly breathtaking. It’s probably not even that hard to pull off. And yet he clearly loves doing it and seems to have no intention of stopping. Outstanding.
— Tom Williams (@tomwfootball) October 27, 2022
Roy Keane sees Antony’s spin in training pic.twitter.com/KAGDkM70rH
— No Context Keaneo (@NoContextKeaneo) October 28, 2022
“Grow up a little…” 😳
Ian Holloway says Antony’s skill WAS “unnecessary nonsense” 🔊🔛 pic.twitter.com/eVRfppv28d
— Sky Sports Premier League (@SkySportsPL) October 28, 2022
🤷♂️ Jamie: “People have been taking a dig at Antony saying it’s embarrassing – I don’t mind it!”
😳 Jason: “At home against Sheriff in the Europa League. You cost £80 million!”@Mrjamieohara1 and @jasoncundy05 they don’t agree about #MUFCAntony plays against the sheriff! 🤔 pic.twitter.com/KSjnnsU3qB
— talkSPORT (@talkSPORT) October 27, 2022
It has even been pointed out that Antony’s spin is nowhere near the most meaningless piece of “skill” performed by a winger who has played for United, largely thanks to the efforts of a certain Andrei Kanchelskis.
Antony’s spin isn’t even the most pointless skill from someone who played on the right wing for Man Utdpic.twitter.com/CDPfAVbjjr
— Adam Hurrey (@FootballCliches) October 27, 2022
When handing out his player ratings for the game, ESPN’s own Rob Dawson awarded Antony a disappointing 4/10 after failing to make much of an impact against Sheriff beyond his viral rant.
Antony performed the spin regularly and was even made to demonstrate it upon his arrival at United during the summer with the club posting an admiring clip on his official social media channels.
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) September 1, 2022
Several prominent pundits have expressed their strong opinions after witnessing the charade against Sheriff, featuring former United midfielder Paul Scholes vilify Antonio for his fancy footwork labeling the trick “ridiculous.” Fellow former United alumni Robbie Savage also slammed the 720-degree carousel as “embarrassing” while commentating on the match.
However, it has also been pointed out that Scholes’ assessment may have been somewhat clouded by bad memories of South African midfielder Scar Ngobese doing 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 Anthony spin 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 Sheriff, although United head coach Erik ten Haag later insisted the change was pre-planned and more a result of the Brazilian’s general lack of impact on the evening at Old Trafford.
“I have no problem with that [the spin] as long as he’s functional,” the Dutchman said after the game. “I also demand more from him — more running in behind, more often in the box, more following and more pace off the dribble, especially, and more playing in the pocket.
Ten Haag 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 dip into his bag of tricks.
“We demand more dominance in this game and when there’s a trick like that, it’s nice. As long as it’s functional, if you don’t lose the ball and attract players, then it’s fine. But if it’s a trick for the sake of a trick, then I’ll correct it.”
Of course, the reaction to Antony’s spin reignited the old debate about where the line is between genuine talent and needless swagger when it comes to attacking football. Plenty of creative players — many of them Brazilian — have made the trick their own over the years.
— UEFA Champions League (@ChampionsLeague) October 19, 2022
Indeed, we need look no further than the adopted Neymar “sombrero“ (sly passing the ball up and over the 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 prone to a “rainbow movie,” catching the ball between his two heels and using them to roll the ball over his marker.
Flip flap, elástico, akka or snakebite❓
— UEFA Champions League (@ChampionsLeague) January 11, 2022
Ronaldo and Ronaldinho, among others, use it “elastic” or “flip-flap” was a major part of the Brazilian side for many years.
Brilliant skill 💫
A BOSS no look assist ❌👀
End of class ⚽️
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) December 5, 2019
Liverpool star Roberto Firmino has carved a nice niche for himself as the main exponent of the cheeky “passage without looking”.
✨ Las mejores CROQUETAS sobre el terreno de juego las hacía @andresiniesta8.
— LaLiga (@LaLiga) January 16, 2021
Known for his skill with the ball, Andres Iniesta has perfected it “croquet“ — a quick movement of the ball between the legs that allowed the former Barcelona midfielder to rush through the gaps between defenders.
Kerlon’s seal dribbles were impressive but rarely finished well pic.twitter.com/NwR3ryT4rj
— James Dart (@James_Dart) May 20, 2020
Perhaps the most infamous of all the signature tricks was “seal dribbling” performed by the Brazilian striker Kerlon. The ball was picked up and juggled on the forehead, usually until an enraged defender over-aggressively stopped the proceedings.