Soon after that comment, the Brazilian was finally dropped, a course of action that had looked unavoidable for weeks, even if Ten Hag was desperate to make the signing work. His desire to return to what he knows best to strengthen his United squad is under the spotlight, but he needed the sums spent on Antony to add up.
He missed three games after being taken out of the team and replaced with Alejandro Garnacho, but when he returned in Istanbul last week he produced a much-improved performance. He then offered far more than Marcus Rashford when replacing him for the final half-hour at Newcastle and deservedly took the academy graduate&aposs place in the side against Chelsea.
This was another step forward for the 23-year-old in terms of producing more consistently. He was a threat to the Chelsea defence, winning the early penalty that Bruno Fernandes skied. Even then, Antony waved his arms to keep the crowd going. He might not have matched the performance of Garnacho, but for once this season, both wingers looked dangerous.
Even a simple gesture such as Antony&aposs to the Old Trafford crowd showed the difference between himself and Rashford at the moment. Rashford&aposs recent performances have been notable for their lack of energy. His confidence looks shot to pieces and he has almost retreated within himself. Even when scoring from the penalty spot at Everton, he had to be pushed to go and celebrate with the visiting fans.
At Newcastle, he was outworked to an alarming degree by opposite number Antony Gordon and didn&apost do enough to track the livewire Tino Livramento. He could have no complaints when he was hooked, although he appeared to find some as he muttered to himself on the bench.
From that vantage point on Wednesday, he would have watched the energy and application shown by Antony and seen what he had to match. It&aposs difficult to make a case for the Brazilian offering more of a goal threat than Rashford, but on current form, he brings more to the team.
It&aposs worth revisiting what Ten Hag said about a player he had worked with and developed for two years in Amsterdam, before committing such vast sums to bring him with him to United.
“Hes a fighter and someone who has a real willingness to win games, I like that,” the Dutchman said. “He showed that from the first moment in Amsterdam, from the first game with the winning goal. That is what he always contributes to the team a fighting spirit who makes actions and I expect the same from him here in Manchester.
“Hes a player with a winning mentality and someone who is creative. He likes to dribble, he sees the final pass, he can score a goal and I think the fans will be excited by him and the way he plays his game.”
United&aposs team performance against Chelsea was as good as they&aposve produced this season, ending with 28 shots and an xG of 4.07. The intensity they played at was a fry cry from recent displays and it was led from the front. Garnacho, Antony and Rasmus Hojlund pressed aggressively and intelligently and they had support from the midfielders behind them.