What next for Manchester United's Antony after returning to training despite sexual assault claims?

Manchester United forward Antony | Photo Credit: Imago

PREMIER LEAGUE What next for Manchester United's Antony after returning to training despite sexual assault claims?

Mark Kinyanjui 09:20 - 30.09.2023

Following a meeting with Greater Manchester Police, United have allowed Antony to return and he is expected to be in consideration to play for them again soon. What does it mean?

On Friday, September 29, Manchester United announced that Antony would be returning to training and would be available for selection despite ongoing investigations into allegations of assaulting three women.

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, both parties 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 is the backgound?

He has been accused by his ex-girlfriend Gabriela Cavallin of attacking her on four occasions in total, including twice in the UK.

Callavin alleges that Antony assaulted her at the Hyatt Regency hotel in Manchester on January 15, damaging one of her breast implants. She also accussed him of cutting her finger with a glass in June.

Another woman, 33-year-old banker Ingrid Lana, has come forward with a similar accusation. A third accuser, Rayssa de Freitas, is understood to have dropped her allegation.

What is 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.

United were forced to change their system from a 4-2-3-1 to a 4-4-2 diamond in his absence, as they struggled to replace Antony’s width in his three-week absence.

Why have United allowed him to return to training?

Antony was allowed to return to training because it was a leave of absence he was granted until investigations by police were carried out. 

He was not suspended like Mason Greenwood was.The police investigations could last several months or more, but 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 on Saturday for a Premier League fixture but Antony will not be involved because he is yet to train with the side enough despite being allowed to return.

Coach Erik ten Hag said on Friday that his fitness will be assessed ahead of the match, but it is unlikely he will be involved. However, he could play a part in next week’s must win Champions League fixture against Galatasaray.

Antony has been included in the Champions League squad for the season.

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 Erik 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.

“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.”

Can a player be allowed to play after being released on 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 rearrested for two more attacks on a second woman, which were alleged to have been committed in April and June of 2021.

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

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.