Anderson’s Injury Writes an All Too Familiar Script
Manchester United’s bizarre victory at Reading, on Saturday, was very much in keeping with the clichéd script they have been writing this season but another sub-plot followed a far too familiar story. Anderson, United’s go-to man in recent games, scored a belter before hobbling off in agony clutching his hamstring.
It’s a sight United fans have become frustratingly accustomed to. Anderson has blown hot and cold since his arrival in 2007 from Porto, and frustratingly for United, it’s often been the latter.
His highest number of appearances in a season have been in his first two – 38. It has been a downhill path from there. He made just 23 appearances in the 09-10 season followed by 30 in 10-11 and a measly 16 last season (thankfully no United fan wants to recall that..).
He has been burdened, not encouraged by the expectations placed on him at Old Trafford. United have been crying out loud for a midfield enforcer since Roy Keane’s unceremonious departure and Anderson was pencilled in as the perfect replacement. Never a player of the Keane mould, Anderson was nonetheless a player who could assert his authority in midfield as he showed during his two seasons with Porto where he had a free reign in midfield- a role he cherished. Hard-work has always been part of his game but it has been very difficult for to sustain a place in United’s ailing midfield.
It took him an incredible 78 games to register his maiden United strike (a left-foot cannonball at White Hart Lane), perhaps an indication of how things have gone for him since his move. He has 157 appearances to date for United, 3 Premier League titles, 1 European Cup and 1 League Cup, but how many of those games can he lay claim to have influenced?
Injuries have put the handbrake on his career, striking just when his form was about to reach its crescendo. He has been unable to turn that ripple into a wave, all hopes cut short before they could even begin to build. An early return from a serious knee injury last season was swiftly followed by a series of niggling injuries that sidelined him for the rest of the season.
Where players redouble their efforts in training to regain the sharpness lost after a prolonged period on the sidelines, Anderson seems to relish the time off. That Ryan Giggs completed the full 120 minutes at Stamford Bridge in the Capital One Cup while Anderson huffed and puffed before being replaced in the 2nd half was an indication of how far the buck as fallen for the Brazilian.
And just when performances (and consequently expectations) started to gather momentum, Anderson finds himself on the treatment table again. With a gigantic Manchester derby, one of the biggest in recent times, looming on the horizon, United could have done with their Samba star as the fulcrum of their midfield. Instead he’ll watch on from his now all-too familiar position in the stands on Sunday as United head into the lion’s den.