Sunday, December 10, 2023

Explained: Antony’s return to training – what it means and what happens now

Must read

Manchester United have announced that Antony will return to training and be available for selection despite ongoing investigations into allegations of assault.

The 23-year-old is the subject of separate police investigations in Manchester and the Brazilian city of Sao Paulo following claims by his former partner Gabriela Cavallin. He was dropped by Brazil’s national team as a result of the controversy, shortly after returning to his native country for the September international break.

The former Ajax winger has denied all allegations against him, including those of two more women, and gave a television interview in his homeland vowing to clear his name.

Earlier this month, the club and Antony mutually agreed he would take a leave of absence to address the accusations. But following a meeting with Greater Manchester Police, United have allowed him to return and he is expected to be in consideration to play for them again soon.

What’s the background?

In June, Cavallin alleged Antony assaulted her on separate occasions between June 2022 and May.

Cavallin had alleged in an interview with Brazilian news outlet UOL, which was published on September 4, that she was first attacked by Antony on June 1 last year, while she was pregnant, when on holiday in Brazil.

She claimed he threatened to throw her from a moving car, and further alleged she was head-butted and punched by Antony in a Manchester hotel room on January 15, which resulted in a damaged breast implant. She claims she also sustained a finger injury during an incident on May 8 this year.

Antony, in an extended interview with Brazilian TV channel SBT, said that while their relationship was “turbulent”, he “never touched her” and described allegations he had injured her as a “lie”.

Two further women — Rayssa de Freitas and Ingrid Lana — made further accusations in Brazilian media earlier this month, which Antony also denied.

United announced on September 10 that Antony would not return to work “until further notice” as he attempted to clear his name. The club and the player said the decision was a “mutual” one.

He had travelled to Brazil to join up with the national team for their opening 2026 World Cup qualifiers at home to Bolivia and away to Peru before Cavallin’s September 4 interview and remained there until he flew back to Manchester earlier this week.

Antony voluntarily attended an interview with Greater Manchester Police (GMP) on Thursday. He was not arrested and was free to go home afterwards with no bail restrictions.

What’s the significance of Antony returning to training?

When United announced the mutual decision for him to stay away from their Carrington training centre to “address the allegations” against him, no timeframe was given for a return.

The police investigations in both Sao Paulo and Manchester remain ongoing but, less than three weeks on from that decision, Antony is back in training. Following Thursday’s interview with GMP and in the absence of an arrest, detention or charges, United decided this would be appropriate.

On the pitch, Antony’s return will mean manager Erik ten Hag can select a player who made 44 appearances in his 2022-23 debut season for United following a €100million (£86.7m/$105.7m at current rates) move from leading Dutch club Ajax on transfer deadline day last September.

Antony had been in the starting line-up for all four of United’s Premier League matches this season before the international break, and his leave of absence, began.

Did United have a choice in this or did they have to allow him to return?

Antony’s time away from training with United was a mutually agreed leave of absence on full pay, not a formal suspension.

The club could have agreed with Antony to maintain this arrangement until a later date, such as when the investigations had concluded, but have chosen to bring it to an end while inquiries are still ongoing. Mindful that the police investigations could last several months or more, United are comfortable with allowing Antony to return to training as he has not been formally charged.

United say Antony’s situation will be kept under review for as long as inquiries continue, raising the prospect of another leave of absence or a suspension if the investigations into these allegations develop.

Does this mean he will play on Saturday?

United welcome Crystal Palace at Old Trafford tomorrow (Saturday) for a Premier League fixture but Antony will not be involved. He did not train at Carrington today despite United deciding that he could return to the club.

Manager Ten Hag said Antony would resume training from today and that his fitness would be assessed, having not played since the 3-1 defeat at Arsenal on September 3.

United are then at home again on Tuesday, when Turkish side Galatasaray are the visitors for a Champions League group-stage match. Antony is in United’s squad for that competition, which they named the day after Cavallin’s interview with UOL.

The club’s next Premier League fixture is next Saturday, October 7, also at Old Trafford against Brentford.

What have United said about Antony?

In a statement, United said: “Since allegations were first made in June, Antony has cooperated with police inquiries in both Brazil and the UK, and he continues to do so.

“As Antony’s employer, Manchester United has decided that he will resume training at Carrington, and be available for selection, while police inquiries proceed. This will be kept under review pending further developments in the case.

“As a club we condemn acts of violence and abuse. We recognise the importance of safeguarding all those involved in this situation, and acknowledge the impact these allegations have on survivors of abuse.”

What has Ten Hag said?

At his pre-Crystal Palace news conference on Friday, Ten Hag largely deferred to the club’s statement when asked about Antony.

Antony’s return was high on the agenda at Ten Hag’s Friday news conference (Matthew Peters/Manchester United via Getty Images)

“We make the statement, so I refer to the statement; everything has been made clear in the statement,” he said.

Ten Hag added that he does not expect any controversy surrounding Antony’s return to adversely affect the team and wants the player’s attention to be focused on performing on the pitch.

“I don’t think it’s a distraction,” he said. “We will focus on the games. He will do as well.”

How do women’s fan groups feel?

A figure from one prominent United supporters’ group, speaking anonymously to The Athletic because they had not yet had a chance to consult with the group and formalise its position, believes the club have legally done what they can, given Antony has not been arrested or charged by either Brazilian or British authorities.

While some supporters have questioned the club’s handling of the matter and compared Antony’s return to the continued absence of United forward Mason Greenwood, there is also an understanding among other fans that there are differences between the two cases.

Greenwood was arrested on suspicion of rape and assault in January 2022 after a complainant released images and videos on social media alleging physical violence.

One of the videos was a recording of a man’s voice pressuring the complainant into having sex. Greenwood has not denied the male voice is his.

Greenwood denied all the allegations, and the charges against him were later dropped.

Is there any precedent for someone being allowed to play while under investigation?

In July last year, an unnamed Premier League player — Player X — was arrested in London on suspicion of rape. The alleged incident was reported to have happened the previous month. While in custody, the player was then re-arrested for two more attacks on a second woman, which were alleged to have been committed in the April and June of 2021.

In February this year, Player X was interviewed under caution for a sexual offence alleged to have taken place in February 2022, relating to a third victim.



Antony and Player X: Football’s blurred priorities when it comes to accusations of offences against women

The Metropolitan Police, which covers the London area, has since announced it will take no further action in relation to the alleged incident in June 2021 as the relevant legislation was not in force at the time.

Despite facing allegations from three women, Player X has not been charged, nor has he been suspended by his club, and he continued playing last season.

Last month, Player X had his bail lifted and was instead released under investigation (RUI) with inquiries ongoing. Whereas bail sets a specific date for a person to attend a police station, there is no set date under RUI.

(Top photo: Joe Prior/Visionhaus via Getty Images)

Latest article