The departure of Anderson from Man United this summer may not surprise many, in fact quite a few of the Red faithful would state that they would be happy to drive him to his new destination.
Arriving at a costly £25 million from Porto in the summer of 2007, the high expectations placed upon the Brazilian have not been met and many Portuguese suitors are hopeful that Sir Alex Ferguson will opt to cut his loses.
Unlike previous United squads, there may be fewer world-class players for Sir Alex to call upon, but there are no obvious weak links in the first team squad and competition for first-team places is more competitive than ever.
However United are short on top quality central midfielders. Darren Fletcher’s career has horribly had to grind to a halt due to on-going health problems caused by ulcerative colitis. Park Ji-Sung has recently been offloaded to QPR, Darron Gibson left for Everton in January, while the progress of Tom Cleverley has been offset by a series of injury problems. Paul Scholes’ temporary retirement caused him to miss half of last season and this coming one looks set to be his last, while highly touted talents Ravel Morrison and Paul Pogba have departed for West Ham and Juventus respectively. New signing Shinji Kagawa is more accustomed to playing just behind the frontline rather than in the battleground of the middle of the park.
This has led to the central midfield partnership being custodian Michael Carrick plus one; the one often being a square peg in a round hole: Phil Jones or Ryan Giggs, for instance.
So, what of Anderson? He is arguably the natural alternative to Fletcher in the side: a box-to-box player with a great engine, a strong tackler and well disciplined, adding industry and work rate to compliment the technical brilliance of Carrick and/or Scholes.
The 24-year-old was a major component for United’s imperious start to the 2011/12 campaign. Not famed for his passing prowess, his pass completion rate often exceeded 90%. Having strangely mustered only one goal in his first 120 matches in England, he seemed to have found a finishing touch with early season goals against Tottenham and Norwich. Everything seemed to be coming to fruition for the dreadlocked midfielder.
But somewhat inevitably, given the theme of bad luck that seemed to curse United throughout the season, Anderson suffered a nasty knee injury in the Champions League clash with Otelul Galati on November 2nd. This ruled him out for an initial four months, and despite the occasional appearance, the injury kept recurring and his season was effectively over.
The Brazilian’s United career has spanned five seasons, and in that time he has collected three league winner medals, a Champions League winners medal and two runners-up medals, on top of medals from the Carling Cup, Community Shield and FIFA World Club Cup. Not bad for a supposed flop.
There is no doubt room for improvement. He isn’t as naturally gifted as the midfielders at the disposal of rival top clubs: Man City have Yaya Toure, Barcelona have Iniesta and Xavi, Real Madrid have Alonso and Khedira, Bayern Munich have Schweinsteiger.
Anderson broke into the Gremio first team at the tender age of 15, and was widely tipped to follow in the footsteps of fellow Gremio graduate Ronaldinho. This aspiration has never been played out in reality. In fact, the main comparison that can be drawn between the two is a negative one, which has blighted their careers.
A month before the 2010/11 season kicked off, Anderson crashed his car in the early hours after a night out and was dragged out, unconscious, minutes before the vehicle exploded. This party attitude is one that is notoriously despised by Sir Alex, who famously clamps down on this lack of professionalism with uncompromising punishment. This is not an entirely isolated incident; reports of failing breathalyser tests and late nights out prior to important matches have been common and this will only be tolerated by Ferguson for so long before his patience snaps and ships him out.
The Brazilian’s talent is currently dormant, but it will need to be awakened quickly as this forthcoming year will be pivotal for Anderson, his proverbial make-or-break season. He will likely be used regularly, if fit, due partly to lack of numbers but also because it is clear that Sir Alex still sees the potential in him. Funds have been spent on other areas of the team whilst trust has been maintained in Anderson, Cleverley and Carrick to not only regain fitness but also to prosper. It is time that he repaid this faith, and answered a lot of critics in the process.