There has been a multitude of players who in recent years have polarized fan opinion, from Dimitar Berbatov to Nani, but none will have the regrets that Anderson will have if he doesn’t change his ways.
At his best, the Brazilian midfielder offers United something truly unique.
Paul Scholes and Michael Carrick are fine distributors of the ball who can control the pace of the game. Tom Cleverley links play beautifully. Shinji Kagawa is superb at finding space and playing the key pass at the key times. Fletcher’s a grafter, with plenty of quality to boot. Anderson, however, could of been, and perhaps still could be if you’re a bit of an optimist, a powerhouse. He has demonstrated, on far too infrequent occasion, an ability to grab a game by the scruff of it’s neck and kick it in the proverbial bollocks.
Take his performance against Newcastle. He scored the opener after picking up the ball just within the United half, and deciding he was over this whole, trying to unlock the defence thing, drove straight at the heart of the Newcastle defence and firing a fantastic strike beyond the keeper. It was the sort of moment that only Anderson could deliver. In this instance, the end result was a goal, but we’ve also seen Anderson embark on similar runs and spray the ball to a wide player, or slip in a forward. If it was Yaya Toure who had done it, it would be described as world class, and “exactly what United need”.
His goal on Wednesday might have been the highlight of his performance, but it was one that was littered with golden moments. His passing was penetrative, his control tight, his impact big. Cheik Tiote, perhaps the man with the most stopping power in the Premier League (Toure aside), couldn’t get close to him. The long and short of it is, this was another reminder of the value that Anderson offers, and a demonstration of a skill set that is rather unique and one that could, if consistently applied, transform United’s midfield.
Consistency is a big issue for Anderson however, and he is surely on his last chance to prove his worth to Sir Alex. It’s nice to see the sort of performance we did from Anderson against Newcastle, but it’s not much use to United if it can only come around once every two months. It would seem that Anderson is at something of a crossroads, and the path he takes will not only define his future at United, but his career as a whole. The 24 year old is a fine footballer on his day, but as long as he is carrying as much weight as he is at the moment, he will never realize his potential to become a key contributor for United. It is all good and well to talk about players being naturally stocky, and that is certainly true of Anderson, but that is not an excuse for a lack of endurance.
As I wrote about Wayne Rooney earlier this season, it merely means you have to work harder to stay in shape. I find it astonishing that players who clearly aren’t willing to do that work on their own accord are able to carve out careers as professional athletes.
The shame of it all is that a fit, consistent Anderson would answer quite a lot of United’s midfield problems. It is a shame for the fans, the club, but most of all for Anderson. He is throwing away a career and potentially a place in the hearts of United fans everywhere. I’ll admit to having a soft spot for Anderson, as I do for most players who don the red of United, but even his most ardent supporters must surely be beginning to lose patience with a player who continues to promise so much, yet deliver so infrequently.
It’s now or never, Ando.