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 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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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.

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.

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.

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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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Ronaldo and Ronaldinho, among others, use it elastic” or “flip-flap” was a major part of the Brazilian side for many years.

Liverpool star Roberto Firmino has carved a nice niche for himself as the main exponent of the cheeky “passage without looking”.

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.

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.


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