Antony: “Players like Casemiro helped me settle into the Brazil side”

Antony has taken no time to adapt to life in Manchester during his first season with United. He joined the Red Devils last summer after dazzling in Holland with Ajax. Not that he had spent long in Amsterdam – he touched down at Ajax just one year after turning professional and winning the Copinha with São Paulo’s reserves in 2019. United paid 95 million euros for the skillful winger, who is gearing up for the World Cup with Brazil but took a few moments out to chat to AS. He spoke about his first few months in Manchester and how he sees Brazil’s chances in Qatar, as one of the big favourites to lift the trophy.

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How have the first few months in Manchester been for you on a personal level?

I’ve been feeling good. I was given a wonderful welcome by everyone. They made me feel very welcome. There are a few Brazilian players who play for the national team, Martínez was a team mate at Ajax and also the Portuguese players. All of that really helped me to settle in when I first arrived.

In terms of results, United’s form has been erratic, in spite of that, do you think that the team is on the right path to enjoy a decent second half of the season?

We have a very strong team and a new way of working with the arrival of the new manager. It’s natural for the team to adapt to the changes. But I am completely convinced that we will reach our best level and be battling for trophies. We have a great group of players who are united as one.

A few days before you arrived, Casemiro signed and Fred is also in the squad. Have you been talking about the run-up to the World Cup over the past few weeks?

We’re always together and we talk a lot. There is stress in the weeks before the World Cup, which will be my first. It’s hard to explain. But having club team mates has really helped me to integrate into the national team.

In 2019, you were battling to win the Copinha and now, three years on, the objective is the World Cup. Can you believe your career has moved so quickly?

Everything has happened so fast… I worked very hard to get where I am. That was my plan, my Plan A. My objective with my career was to enjoy success, get to Europe, play in the Premier League, take part in the World Cup. With a lot of effort, it’s starting to happen. But now I have started a new chapter in my life and I cannot just think that I’ve achieved everything. I have to think about bigger things.

With Brazil, you face a lot of competition for a place in the team with Rapinha, Rodrygo…What can you bring to the team to get playing time in Qatar?

Brazil has a great squad, players with a lot of quality. And, most importantly, we are all good friends and we encourage each other. We know that we can play well as a team and we’ll give the best we have for our country. I’ve had some good games with the national team, I have been included in the list and I hope to continue helping the team at the World Cup.

Which teams do you see as favourites to win the trophy?

There are some great teams, it’s difficult to single out just one. Teams with historical importance in the World and quality throughout their squads. Like France, England, Argentina, Portugal… there are several great sides, it’s going to be a high-level tournament.

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Vinicius Jr, Rodrygo, Alex Sandro, Raphinha, Antony, Dani Alves and Pedro of Brazil warm up during the first training session at Juventus Training Center on November 14, 2022 in Turin, Italy. Jonathan MoscropGetty

You won an Olympic gold medal with Brazil in 2021. Is winning the World Cup the biggest dream of your career?

Winning gold at the Olympics was indescribable – that was what opened the doors for me. That was something that marked me for life, so much so that I got a tattoo of the cup on my leg. By really, the big dream is to win the World Cup, it’s the maximum for every player. It’s something I’ve dreamt about since I was a child; people watch the World Cup on television, they decorate the streets… and to be able to play in one is incredible.

You weren’t part of the team for the last Copa América but you have appeared regularly in the lists since then. Is there any feeling among the players to get revenge on Argentina?

Argentina is a great rival of Brazil, a historico side. Any game between the two nations is always decisive, whether it be in a friendly, in qualifiers or at a tournament. At the World Cup finals it will be even more histric. Who knows…

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