Last season gave people due reason; we failed to win the league (by 1 point may I add), crashed out of the Champions League to Bayern Munich as well as having off field problems.
Many blamed Rafael for our loss to Bayern Munich, claiming for all his attacking prowess he couldn’t defend as if at the age of 19 that is a permanent problem. Add to that our highly touted Brazilian midfielder Anderson was having problems too, apparently going AWOL, being demoted to the reserves then picking up a huge knee injury.
Anderson hadn’t lived up to his earlier billing and it was easy to see people revelling in this as his inconsistent performances saw him labelled a flop as well as being touted for a move away but if Nani’s reversal didn’t teach these people anything nothing would.
This season amidst all of the talk of how poor we have been playing we sit top of the table, are undefeated in the league and have the best goal difference and amongst some bright performers both of these maligned players have shone.
This season Rafael has taken his game to another level. As well as improving on the attacking side of his game, he has vastly improved the defensive side. The improvement has been remarkable as he has matched being competitive and fierce with being creative (for a right back).He wants to win every tackle, header and seems determined to let nothing get past him.
He did well against Nasri when the two went head to head last night and also did a number on Gareth Bale earlier this season. He is playing at an extremely high level for one so young and hopefully the right back spot is now his.
Anderson’s turn around too has been remarkable. A little while ago he was being linked with a move away from Old Trafford but in his current form he is looking a prized asset. Nobody ever questioned his talent, on the rare occasion he showed it, even the staunchest of United detractor had to respect what the young Brazilian was capable of. A dogged battler also capable of the sublime, it was his lack of consistency as well as his desire that worried most.
At the start of the season when the club photo was released and Anderson looked like he had been on the triple bacon cheeseburgers there were a few grumbles. Many wondered if he had actually done anything to get himself in some sot of shape ahead of this season but having watched him I think our concerns have been eased.
Anderson has got his head down and strung together a number of quality appearances, he grabbed a goal against Valencia a vital one at that and last night bossed the midfield against Arsenal an area that it had been expected we would definitely be over ran. He put his extra size about out muscling Arsenal, made direct surging runs and could have even got onto the score sheet. his drive and desire are pushing him forward as well as seeing him get well deserved plaudits.
The is still a long way to go in the season and both can still do better but they have put to bed the talk that they aren’t good enough (yes Phil Thompson actually stated that a couple weeks ago, good to see unbiased journalism on Soccer Saturday!). We just hope they can keep these top quality performances up.