We all know Anderson’s trials and tribulations since his arrival in 2007. He impressed with commanding performances during his first year, notably against Cesc Fàbregas and Steven Gerrard. In the 2008-09 his performance levels fluctuated, perhaps due to second season syndrome and/or struggling to adjust to an unfamiliar deeper role. His third season in the main was one of disappointment. Poor form lead to him being dropped and he reportedly returned to Brazil without permission to the fury of Sir Alex. Injury then curtailed his season.
Fast forward to the present and what many considered a make or break season for Anderson. Even before a ball was kicked in anger the young Brazilian was once again headline news when he was involved in a car crash. Of course Hollywood-esque reports followed, but speculation regarding his future as a Manchester United player started to gather pace with some quarters questioning his partying lifestyle and his inclusion in Man United’s Premier League 25-man squad. Sir Alex Ferguson later allayed fears by claiming the incident had been exaggerated.
After rupturing his cruciate ligament in February, Anderson made his return to first team action in September as a late substitute in the 3-2 victory over Liverpool. He featured regularly over the next month where his performances levels were of a player that had recently returned from a serious injury. He played okay in parts, but faded as the game progressed, due to the length of his absence.
Perhaps annoyed after letting slip a 2-0 lead against West Brom at Old Trafford I had a little rant on Anderson. Admittedly he switched to the left to accommodate Darron Gibson, but his performance was poor, the same level of performance we had witnessed for the previous 12-18 months, if anything he had regressed. Anderson is a young player with heaps of potential; however I was starting to tire when using the word potential to describe him. The fact I am required to look at his ugly mug every morning when making a brew did not help. We have a magnet with a picture of his face (not mine I may add) placed on the front of the refrigerator door. Anyway…
Following West Brom, Anderson was not involved in first team action for well over a month. According to Sir Alex, Anderson had suffered quite badly from the virus that spread throughout the squad, whether this was the case or whether he underwent intense stamina/fitness training, I’m not sure. On his return he has looked a completely different player since the 7-1 mauling of Blackburn. He has added a drive and energy to our midfield. None of our other midfielders (perhaps Fletcher to a lesser extent) can run at defences like Anderson, as a consequence opposition defenders back off, look uncertain thus creating space for the likes of Rooney, Berbatov and Nani. Since his return it has been noticeable there has been a considerable effort for Anderson to complete 90 minutes, a problem he struggled with pre-injury. Fergie is pushing/testing the young midfielder, which I believe is the correct approach.
Two man midfield
To utilise Anderson’s better attributes his central midfield partner is an important factor. Michael Carrick is his perfect foil; as they complement each other. One sits deep allowing the other greater freedom to push forward. While Anderson’s performances have been eye catching Carrick has played well in his designated role. The dynamics change if Darren Fletcher is his midfield partner. Fletcher likes to buzz around and plays further forward compared to Carrick, therefore placing restrictions on Anderson.
Anderson requires to manage his performance in a two man midfield, due to stamina levels. Against Valencia at Old Trafford he hustled and bustled playing in his normal manner, but looked spent by the 60 minute mark. If he does have issues regarding stamina (I wouldn’t be surprised if he has considering the severity of injuries suffered at such an early age) he will need to understand what his body can and cannot do. This ability to manage his body will hopefully improve with experience. This is obviously less of an issue in a three man midfield where another pair of legs can do the donkey work. He is still learning how to play in a two man midfield, especially his defensive responsibilities, but he is steadily improving and now tracks back with greater frequency than previously. His better performances have come in a three man midfield. He is now however showing signs of reaching those performances levels in a two man midfield.
During the writing of this article news broke about Anderson signing a new four and half year contract. Delighted! The comparison to Nani and how he turned around his fortunes is an obvious one, hopefully Anderson can follow suit. If he can maintain his current form over a sustained period there may be less need to sign a top notch, established player in light of possible retirements.
If you wish to discuss this issue further with myself or other members of the Stretford End Arising community, you can do so in the Stretford End Arising forum