“He was agitated!” Ten Hag speaks out against Antony’s mocking of the defeated Coventry players as the Manchester United manager tries to deflect criticism of Harry Maguire’s FA Cup behavior.

Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag has sought to defend Antony for his over-zealous celebration against Coventry by claiming he had been provoked.

Alejandro Garnacho Antony Manchester United 2023-24

Antony cupped his ears towards Coventry’s players and fans as he celebrated United’s penalty shootout win over the Championship side in Sunday’s FA Cup semi-final.

The Brazilian forward, who has had a miserable second season with United, was widely criticised for his actions, which contrasted with Harry Maguire consoling the Coventry players, who had fought their way back from 3-0 down to draw 3-3 and force extra-time and then penalties.

“Did you see the reaction of Harry Maguire? He [Antony] was provoked, that’s why this was a reaction of that, you haven’t seen the provocation, only the reaction,” Ten Hag told a press conference. “But he should not do it.

I have seen Harry Maguire straight after and others, we should acknowledge the performance of Coventry coming to that final and the comeback we are 70 mins totally dominating the game by far and 3-0 must have been the game is closed but the return from their side was very good.”

Ten Hag had complained about the decision to award Coventry a penalty in added time for a handball by Aaron Wan-Bissaka, but he said he would never stoop to the level of Nottingham Forest, who questioned the integrity of referees after their Premier League defeat by Everton.

He added: “You can’t do that. You can agree, you can disagree. The handball for Wan-Bissaka is totally wrong, a mistake but you can’t question it. So it’s not good for the game and the refereeing we should respect them and there is no respect.”

Antony Manchester United 2024

Antony, who cost £85 million ($105 million) in 2022 and is now United’s second-most expensive acquisition ever, has only managed to score two goals and provide two assists across all competitions this season.

United host Premier League strugglers Sheffield United on Wednesday, looking for their first win after 90 minutes since beating Everton on March 9. The Red Devils have almost no chance of qualifying for the Champions League and are now focused on finishing a miserable season on the right note and securing a place in next season’s Europa League.

Ten Hag added: “We have to win every game. That’s what United stands for, that is our approach, go from game to game but we have to qualify for Europe and we have two opportunities in the league and the FA Cup final.”

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