Erik ten Hag vowed to correct any Manchester United players doing skills for the sake of it after Antony’s superfluous spins in the Europa League win against Sheriff Tiraspol.
The Red Devils wrapped up qualification for the knockout phase with a game to spare as Diogo Dalot, Marcus Rashford and the returning Cristiano Ronaldo scored in Thursday’s 3-0 win at Old Trafford.
The result sets up a Group E showdown at Real Sociedad next Thursday, when failure to usurp the Spanish leaders in the standings will mean a knockout play-off against one of the Champions League dropouts.
But one of the main talking points after beating Sheriff was Antony’s double spin skill in the first half – something Robbie Savage branded “embarrassing” after the summer signing then put the ball out of play.
United great Paul Scholes called it “ridiculous” but Ten Hag, who went onto take the Brazil international off at half-time, is happy for such expressions of skill if done properly.
“I don’t have a problem with that as long as it’s functional,” he said.
“Also from him I demand more – more runs behind, more often in the box, more followers in and more tempo dribbles, especially, and more playing in the pocket.
“So, we demand more dominance in this game and when there is a trick like that, it’s nice.
“As long as it’s functional, if you’re not losing the ball and you’re attracting players, then it’s OK.
“But if it’s a trick because of a trick, then I will correct him.”
Cristiano Ronaldo scored on this return to the team (PA)
Needless skills were something Ronaldo cut out during his first spell at Old Trafford and helped him become a superstar.
The 37-year-old returned to the starting line-up on Thursday evening after sitting out Saturday’s trip to Chelsea having refused to come on against Tottenham last week.
Ronaldo was enduring a frustrating night in front of goal but eventually scored his 701st club goal to wrap up the victory.
“He kept going and the team kept going to put him in the right position,” Ten Hag said. “He kept going to get himself in the right position.
“He didn’t give up. I think that is what his whole career (is about). That’s why he is so good. In the end, he gets the reward for it.”
Old Trafford not only got to witness one of the all-time greats in action on Thursday but also a rising star.
Eric Ten Tag hailed Cristiano Ronaldo’s work ethic (PA)
Alejandro Garnacho, a key part part of last season’s FA Youth Cup triumph, made his first United start at the age of 18 and left to a standing ovation.
“I think it was a good performance from him,” Ten Hag said. “He did what I expect him to do.
“First, he deserved the chance after the last weeks. The start was difficult for him in the season.
“I was not happy with him but the last weeks I was happy with him – he got a better attitude, more resilience, more determination and what you see he is a talent.
“To deal with the ball in tight areas, to run behind, and especially also his tempo dribbles, he can take players on and that’s a good capability in football nowadays, especially against opponents who are defending that compact like this opponent.
“I’m happy with that. I hope for him it’s a stimulus, this first game, and that he knows ‘yeah, I have to do better to get into the team’, to create more but don’t forget the other things. You are playing in a team.”
Pushed on what Garnacho had been wrong, Ten Hag said: “Not wrong. It’s young kids, eh?
“They have to have to grow and to raise their personality, and they have to know what are the laws and demands in football, in top football.
“It’s not only about a trick or about scoring one goal. No, we have to win football games and that demands a lot and then you have to fulfil every day the highest standards.
“That is what we have to teach – and not only to him but all the players, especially the young players.”