When he completed his big-money move to Manchester United from Porto in 2007, Anderson was expected to achieve great things at the Old Trafford club.
It was his superb technical skills, vision and tireless work rate that caught the attention of Sir Alex Ferguson, who did everything possible to ensure that a deal was tied up as quickly as possible during that transfer window.
The deal is rumoured to have cost United about £20m. Anderson quickly adapted to his new environment, due to the presence of two of his Portuguese-speaking friends in the team, Cristiano Ronaldo and Nani.
It always makes it easier when a new player has other players in the dressing room with whom they can feel comfortable, and that seemed to have worked for him.
He made his United debut during the pre-season that year.
Six years on, Anderson has failed to live up to the expectation, with injury plaguing him during his time at the club.
171 appearances, 124 as a starter, in all competitions have yielded only nine goals. This is hardly an acceptable return for a player who cost that much money. Injuries aside, Anderson has been given a fair opportunity to cement his place in the first team but he has struggled to do so.
There is a saying that form is temporary, but class is permanent. Anderson still has class, don’t get me wrong, but his form is just simply too indifferent and highly inconsistent for a player of his quality.
We can go on to list many reasons why injuries are to blame, but that is all part and parcel of being a professional footballer. Injuries happen, and the intention should be to recover from them as soon as possible, and come back stronger than ever, and show why you deserve to be right back into the mix of things.
That being said, I refuse to totally write off Anderson. I will admit that other factors are to blame for his inconsistent showings for Manchester United. During his spells at Gremio and Porto, Anderson played in a more advanced role, most times as an attacking midfielder. His adept tackling abilities and wide range of passing, however, led Sir Alex to deploy him primarily as a holding central midfielder.
Although he seems competent in that role, there is no question that he seems much more comfortable when he is involved further up front. With United using the traditional 4-4-2 with two strikers constantly, an attacking midfielder was hardly in the thinking of Sir Alex, as the wide men, in the likes of Ronaldo, Giggs, Nani, and Valencia among others, created the majority of chances.
Anderson therefore had no choice but to accept a holding role in the centre of the park. It is yet to be seen whether this is the primary reason for his inability to sparkle. One could probably make the case that Sir Alex should’ve experimented with using Anderson further forward more often, in Cup games at least.
His inconsistent showings for Manchester United, has affected him far greater than simply losing him spot in the first team, as it has also cost him his place in the Brazil national team. With the World Cup quickly approaching, Anderson is running out of time to impress the national selectors.
There is no way that he can continue to occupy the bench at Manchester United, and expect to be considered for selection to the national team. I think that he would be the first to express his disappointment at the constant injuries that have hindered his progress, and the clear lack of playing time. But then again, he insists that he is happy at the club, despite much speculation of him leaving over the past few years.
There was much talk of him being used to facilitate a deal for Porto starlet James Rodriguez, a long-term target of Man United. With Rodriguez’s move to AS Monaco, however, that idea had flown out of the window.
Now comes the new challenge for Anderson. The departure of Ferguson gives him the opportunity to impress new boss David Moyes. The incoming manager would have seen plenty of him during his time in the Premier League, but when he starts his term in July, he will run rule on the future of Anderson at the club.
If I were Anderson, I would certainly be a bit concerned, as it would seem that Moyes has identified the United midfield as the area most in need of reinforcements, not without reason of course. There have been widespread reports that there is a view to sign two midfielders at the very least, with United said to be keen on signing Barcelona’s Cesc Fabregas, according to Sky Sports.
Moyes’ former player Marouane Fellaini has also been mentioned as a possible target. If these reports are accurate, then Anderson would need a phenomenal pre-season in order to save his United career.
Surely Moyes will not look to bring in these players with the view of them being bench warmers. An optimist may say that with United competing for three trophies, the strength in depth, and the competition for places can only be a good thing for United.
Though that may be true, he would still need to overcome the likes of Carrick and Cleverly for a first-team spot.
Regardless of what happens, I am a firm believer that Anderson still has a lot to offer Manchester United.
If Moyes manages him well, we are likely to see his career reignited. If his future lies away from Old Trafford, I sure hope that he goes to a team where he is a regular starter.
For his sake, I hope that he steps up his bid for World Cup selection by stepping up the level of his performances. Everyone at Old Trafford would love to see Anderson going to the World Cup, on home soil, and performing well.
I would possibly give him another season, but that decision is up to Moyes. Anderson now has to keep performing, and hope for the best. Is his time up? Only time will tell.
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