Manchester United are ready to make a fresh attempt to convince Ajax to sell star forward Antony – and this time Erik ten Hag will reportedly sacrifice one of the Red Devils’ brightest young talents to secure his signature.
The new United chief is busy assembling his squad ahead of what he hopes will be a successful maiden campaign. The Dutchman has been sworn in to try and lift United’s fortunes, with the club finishing an unacceptable sixth last season. And his first mission will be to try and reclaim a place in the top four and reduce the alarming 35-point gap to champions Manchester City.
However, bringing in the players he is targeting has not been plain sailing. He had to wait a number of weeks before welcoming the first signing of his era, that being left-back Tyrell Malacia from Feyenoord.
Since then, United have confirmed the capture of Christian Eriksen and Lisandro Martinez. However, his No 1 target in Frenkie de Jong continues to elude him. Indeed, securing his signing has been a major source of frustration and proving one of the most complex in living memory.
To that end, Ten Hag suggests United are considering a contingency plan upon official failure for the Barcelona schemer.
It’s been a similarly frustrating story with Antony. His club Ajax are understandably not in a hurry to sell their prized forward. And having recently agreeing a deal to sell Martinez to United, they appear reluctant to sell a second star to Ten Hag.
In an effort to dissuade their interest, Ajax have reportedly placed a prohibitive asking price of £69m (€80m) on the 22-year-old.
That price is seemingly beyond what United are willing to spend, especially given their need to also sign a new midfielder.
United see first offer for Antony rejected
However, Cristiano Ronaldo’s wish to leave has seemingly handed United an unexpected problem. And the domino effect of his potential departure means the need to sign a new forward has become more pressing.
As a result, United reportedly saw what was deemed a curious opening offer for Antony rejected last week.
Nonetheless, the player remains a key summer target. And now a report claims the club are readying an improved second bid.
As per Netherlands website, soccernews.nl, United are reportedly willing to make a cash-plus-player bid.
And they claim United’s improved offer will be for £40m in cash, together with highly-rated defender Ethan Laird. Quite what the report reckons Laird is worth remains to be seen.
The 20-year-old has come up through United’s academy, making just two senior appearances so far. He has, however, done reasonably well while out on loan. To that end, Laird has gained valuable game-time at Swansea and Bournemouth in the Championship.
Ajax are reportedly admirers of Laird and were seemingly considering an approach to sign him in a separate deal.
United need to act fast with other admirers emerging
Either way, Manchester United will likely need to get their skates on if they are to secure his signature.
The 22-year-old Antony scored 10 times last season, laying on four assists, and earning the admiration of Ten Hag. His form also made him a regular in the Brazil squad; a place he hopes to secure with the 2022 World Cup now just a few months away.
Whether the ‘improved’ offer of £40m plus Laird does the trick remains to be seen, however. Ajax drew a hard bargain over the Lisandro Martinez sale and are unlikely to collapse easily over Antony.
Ajax winger Antony pushing for Premier League move
Antony wants to leave Ajax this summer with a transfer to the Premier League to Chelsea or Manchester United most likely
Indeed, Ajax have already sold the Argentine as well as Sebastian Haller to Dortmund this summer. As such, it will take a pretty penny for them to cash in on Antony too.
However, the nine-times capped Brazil international also has admirers in Chelsea. And a report on Tuesday also claim Liverpool are also considering an approach for Antony, with their sporting director Julian Ward sensing his chance.