In recent times, there has hardly been a player who has polarised opinion from Manchester United fans than our charismatic, flamboyant and outward Brazilian No 8.
Touted as the next Ronaldinho in his native Brazil, Anderson arrived in Manchester from FC Porto for a fee around £18M and with media attention firmly cast on his relatively inexperienced shoulders. He had a lot to prove, many believing that such an outlay from Sir Alex Ferguson represented a significant gamble, plus he was entering relatively unchartered territory- alongside the Da Silva twins, the only Brazilian we had signed previously was that man Kleberson, comparisons were bound to be drawn.
Anderson took to United life like a duck to water in his first season. He received several plaudits for his energy, drive and vision. At times, he looked like a man possessed, showing bite and tenacity in away games at the Emirates and Anfield- playing their respective star midfielders Cesc Fabregas and Steven Gerrard off the park. These two monumental performances, combined with his flamboyance and Samba brashness, automatically endeared him to the United faithful- who rewarded him with one of Old Trafford’s more popular songs.
In a nutshell, that was the good section of the ‘good, bad and ugly’ Anderson compilation. The bad has unfortunately masked some of his efforts on the pitch. Anderson was and still is often ridiculed for his mercurially accurate shooting radar. Sometimes his shooting has not been good enough for a supposed ‘next Ronaldinho’ or for a Manchester United midfielder.
Also featuring prominently in the ‘bad’ section has been his luck with injuries. Upon signing for United, he was recovering and undergoing the rehabilitation process after he broke his leg whilst playing for Porto. Regrettably whenever Anderson has a prolonged spell on the sidelines, he tends to take longer than had hoped to get back into his stride. He has often been labelled ‘overweight’ and ‘leggy’ when he re-enters the first-team scene, something that is extremely detrimental from a playing perspective: His game is based around energy, drive, high-octane tempo and verve. As a result of Anderson’s misdemeanours when on the treatment table, half of his game is eradicated, meaning he is not always up to speed.
The ‘ugly’ comes in the shape of certain unnecessary transgressions off the pitch. A couple of years ago he had to write off his car after crashing into a barrier on his way to training, he got injured in the process, again curtailing his progress. He was allowed an extended rest period after injury a few years ago and he went to relax in his homeland, however he got caught up in the carnival of Brazil and reported back to Carrington late. Both these incidents did not go down too well with the manager.
When surmising Anderson’s stint at United, a few buzz words immediately spring to mind: frustration, Jekyll and Hyde, injury, underachievement, inconsistent and various types of food (if his Instagram is anything to go by). These are not the kind of words that you would be expecting or hoping to hear 5 years down the line from that big-money deal.
That is the harsh and compelling reality though. Anderson is one of those individuals who is in the ‘nearly player’ bracket. More often than not he has flattered to deceive, when he churns out high-quality performances he leaves you ultimately wanting more. He has shown this season, only in glimpses, that he has the capacity to change a game in our favour, as he offers something different to the other central midfield candidates: Unlike steady Eddie’s like Michael Carrick and Tom Cleverley, Anderson has the ability to carry the ball up the pitch with purpose and speed. This is a priceless asset in the modern game, defenders hate attackers running at them with drive and the Brazilian can certainly add some zest in that respect. One instance where this was put into practise was at home to QPR- we were trailing (in typical fashion at the time) but Anderson took the bull by it’s horns and took control of the midfield, it was like he was conducting the orchestra- his high-tempo game rubbed off on the other players and transformed the collective performance- we triumphed 3-1 in the end, down no small part to Ando’s energy and creativity.
Anderson was sporadically adding goals to his game last season and this- his goals that stick out were the strike against Tottenham on our opening home fixture last season and this season away at Reading in that goal-scoring bonanza and defensive horror-show. There was a point over Christmas when it looked for all the world like Ando was finally stamping his authority on his United career and rekindling his first season sparkling form. But low and behold, true to form, Anderson injured himself in that Reading game and has barely featured since- the epitome of his United career in a nutshell, therein is the Jekyll meets Hyde.
Fresh speculation about the Brazilian emanated yesterday when he supposedly gave an insightful interview to Globo Esporte. He claimed to them that he has tried to leave United on several occasions now but ultimately the matter is out of his hands: “What can I say? I have three more years on my contract, I have tried to leave many times and never succeeded to do so.” He later denied these quotes on his Instagram account by saying ‘Love, stay Manchester’. But the reports have been confirmed.
Did he not realise that when he talks to the media in another country that his comments would be relayed so that the whole world can see them? There are ways to channel obvious frustrations about playing time and there are bad ways. These comments surely feature in the latter. Look at Chicharito for example: of course he would love to be first-choice striker, it could be argued his form this year means he merits a place in the line-up somewhere. Whenever he gets on the pitch, he has the club’s best interests at heart and more often than not pops up with a decisive goal. Let your talking be done on the pitch and you will be rewarded with a consistent run in the team. Having a whinge to the media back home will win Anderson few friends, actions speak louder than words after all, as showcased by Chicharito.
Ultimately, Anderson’s United career has been in fits and starts, something that is not seen as desirable in the quest for sustained success and longevity at a club like Manchester United. Anderson would not be the highest profile player to leave United if these quotes are digging his own grave. Regardless of player stature or personality, if the manager sees that the player’s heart is no longer with the club or the desire is not there, there is normally only one outcome- just ask Becks, Jaap Stam, Keano or Ruud.
Whether the quotes have foundation is another matter, regardless the manager will probably take a dim light to these quotes. What is particularly disappointing if these were to be the case, is that the manager has stuck by Anderson and had his patience tested in the past by the Brazilian. It’s rare that a player is given reprieves at our club, after the aforementioned blemishes involving his car and going AWOL, how many more chances does he want?
The fact of the matter is that Anderson has not lived up to expectations and will ultimately be remembered as a ‘nearly man’, an unfulfilled talent unless he grovels to the manager and shows us his first year form again that he threatened to show earlier on in the season.
It is simple really, if he performs to the standard we know he is capable of, he’ll get into our central midfield. He could save us forking out hyper-inflated prices for a new player if he knuckles down, as he offers us something different.
The ball is firmly in his court now, the onus is one him to perform- otherwise an exit beckons.