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Erik ten Hag explains why he waited until the 99th minute to bring on Antony

Erik ten Hag has challenged Antony to ‘step up’ after leaving the £88million signing on the bench until the 99th minute of Saturday’s demoralising home defeat against Fulham.

United had roared back into Champions League qualifying contention on the back of four straight wins, but were handed a sobering dose of reality by Alex Iwobi’s injury-time winner.

Despite the absence of Rasmus Hojlund due to injury, Ten Hag found no room for the most expensive recruit of his reign in his starting XI, instead handing a full Premier League debut to Omari Forson.

The teenager’s afternoon was brought to an end after 52 largely underwhelming minutes, but even then Ten Hag resisted the temptation to introduce Antony to the fray.

Indeed, it wasn’t until Iwobi put the visitors back in front that Ten Hag saw fit to hand Antony a chance in what a desperate last throw of the dice.

‘It was nothing to do with fitness,’ Ten Hag said when asked why he left it so late to bring on the Brazilian.

‘He is fit but we have many options on the right side where we lack in other positions due to injuries.

Alex Iwobi scored Fulham's late winner against Manchester United

‘The form in Antony we all have seen and he has to step up. I see it in training but also other Omari and Amad Diallo and Garnacho deserve to play.’

‘We struggled with their influence and their impact on our left side. But we reacted well and how to deal with it, how to step up from the back and once we had that we got more from the game and took control to create the chances,’ Ten Hag added following a reslut that leaves United’s top four hopes in tatters.

‘With the squad we had today we should have won this game. Both halves were slow starts and we should be ready from the first whistle.

‘That’s a point of criticism but the team showed big character in both halves.’

 

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