Date: 19th April 2011 at 3:29am
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Over the past few months, many supporters and bloggers alike have been dissecting the current Manchester United squad, attempting to divine what it already does well and what it currently lacks.

The consensus that I seem to get from the faithful on twitter and on the blogs I read is that United are in desperate need of a true box-to-box midfielder, a pacey winger who can chip in some goals, a creative midfielder, a keeper, a centre back, etc.

The most generally agreed upon present need, aside from keeper, is this box-to-box midfielder. A player who can be a conduit between Rio, Nemanja, Rooney, Berbatov and Hernandez. He ideally has the strength to win any ball, the ability to play a pass and be a presence in the middle that prevents teams like Arsenal from playing it narrow. Classically players like Bryan Robson, Roy Keane and Owen Hargreaves (to name a few) have played this role to perfection. Last season Darren Fletcher played the position very well and Michael Carrick has shown it in fits and starts this term. But there is a player who is hardly mentioned by supporters that has the necessary tools to excel in that position for years to come. And his name? Anderson.

Sir Alex Ferguson signed the Brazilian from FC Porto with the assumption that Anderson would develop into a Scholes-type of player, one who could support a striker expertly and chip in with a few goals too. And at Porto and for the Brazil U-17’s Anderson was that type of player. He won the Golden Ball at the U-17 World Cup in 2007 and scored two goals in nine starts for Porto.

Brought to United on a fee of around 17 million pounds, much was expected of Anderson. The press were referring to him as ‘the next Ronaldinho’ and many in the support, including myself, salivated at the thought of signing a player of that calibre at just 18 years of age. During his first season at United, Anderson won himself a committed following from the faithful and inspired one of the best player-related chants in the Premier League.

While he was unable to score in 24 starts in all competitions during his debut season, one could sense that Anderson had all of the skills necessary to succeed at the club. He had at least proven that he was indeed better than Kleberson (what anawful signing that was…) and he did shit on Fabregas. Anderson also scored a vital penalty in the Champions League Final in Moscow, helping United to its third European Cup. The Brazilian started to be compared to Roy Keane once the press gave up on the Ronaldinho comparisons with every wayward shot.

During the 2008/2009 season Anderson continued his development, but was not able to nail down a regular place in Sir Alex’s first team only starting eleven matches in the Premier League. Manchester United would go on to win their third straight Premier League title with Carrick and Fletcher, along with cameos by Paul Scholes, playing most of the important matches. The press began to report that Anderson was seeking a move away from United to get more playing time, Inter among the supposed interested parties.

And last season Anderson finally broke his Premier League duck, scoring a goal in the 3-1 win versus Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane. It proved to be his defining moment of the season, as he spent the duration of last year on the treatment table after suffering a serious knee injury. Supporters began to wonder what would become of their beloved midfield magician. Would he ever shit on Fabregas again in a United shirt? Could he ever deliver on the immense promise he had shown in flashes during his debut season?

This season Anderson has enjoyed his most prolonged stretch of good form. He started nearly every match from September 29, a Champions League group stage match versus Valencia, through February 19 in the FA Cup versus Crawley Town. During that stretch, Anderson only missed the January 4 clash against Stoke City and the February 5 match versus Wolverhampton. His form was such that Sir Alex Ferguson rewarded him with a five year extension to remain at Old Trafford for the foreseeable future.

Anderson consistently showed that he was United-quality, turning in tough, classy performances, one after the other. His indomitable spirit and strength covered for an out of form Fletcher, an enigmatic Carrick and an aging Scholes. Anderson patrolled the midfield well and contributed a goal and two assists. While he may not be the attacking midfielder Sir Alex and all of us thought we had signed, Anderson has demonstrated an ability to be an excellent box-to-box midfielder.

United ought to move a box-to-box midfielder down its list of transfer priorities. Anderson, if given more minutes during the run in, ought to provide that missing presence in the midfield that has been lacking in stretches this season. Signing a player like Jack Rodwell for the rumoured price (in excess of 20 million pounds) would be more than a bit kamikaze, especially if United already have a player in the first time of being the man in the middle for years to come. Anderson just turned 23 last week and has his best football ahead of him. Sir Alex would be better served using 20 million on players like Alexis Sanchez, Nuri Sahin (whose exit clause is six million euro) and David De Gea.

To the left to the right to the samba beat tonight…

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10 responses to “The Magic our midfield is missing?”

  1. jonathan says:

    Thank you! I’ve just ranted on two other posts how Ando should’ve started in the City game (though more of an advanced role). He won’t ever be a deep-lying defensive mid, but box-to-box makes perfect sense as that is exactly what he does when playing. He possess all the traits and abilities to do it.

    I think he’s shown more than enough this season to prove he’s worth keeping. During that 3 month spell when he was at full fitness, he was very consistent and it’s a shame he was hurt again. He and Carrick started to show a potentially effective partnership, and it wouldn’t be a bad idea to employ it regularly as we push for glory in these coming weeks.

  2. Sorry,but have to disagree that Anderson is a box to box midfielder. He can get forward but does not appear to have the drive or maybe fitness to get back in a defensive capacity.

    If you don’t believe me watch him in his next game. When the ball breaks down, you never see him break sweat to get back.

    He has talent as an attacking midfielder but does not score enough goals and seems to lack something in technique.

    He arrived from Porto as an attacking left midfielder yet has rarely played there. Needs a consistent run free of injury but must improve soon. He is 23 now and cannot be classed as a youngster.

    Cannot remember him ever being compared to Keane and in any case, this is ridiculous. He had one decent game against Fabregas and Gerrard a few seasons ago but name the next one he dominated against a big team.

    Just my opinion.

    • Chudi says:

      Agree in part, he has failed to really impose himself on games (although I felt he did a good job against Arsenal this season, especially as everyone felt that was the area that we would be over run!)

      But you have to take into consideration that he hasn’t really had a proper pre season at the club due to tournaments or injury. I think that has played a huge part in his fitness but if he gets one we will be able to gauge properly what he can do for us.

      I’ve always said he does his best work around the center circle where he can break up and start attacks but beyond that he is definitely no Keane or Scholes.

  3. John Tring says:

    Agreed. If fit, Ando is infinitely better than Carrick and Fletcher. Gibson is not a Prem Lge player let alone a Utd first-teamer. Therefore, Ando should be used more and encouraged to develop his potential. Having said that, Utd need a top playmaker like Sneijder or Ever Banega. Currently there’s no creativity, all too predictable. Instead of looking at Barca and admire in awe ( bracing for a small hiding in UCL final assuming form book holds up and Utd v Barca final takes place , Utd must buy a good player or two in right positions.

  4. Ander is a box to box midfielder agreed but need more playing time if only sir alex will give him more playing time ander will prove he’s the best midfield player united has got.

  5. nippy says:

    Carlos Alberto has recently stated that Anderson would live up to his potential if given more of a free role further up the pitch. This being the case why not buy De Rossi to give us some real solidity in midfield thus allowing our attacking options to get on with there job. To often Anderson has been asked to play a defensive midfield role and all to often Rooney and Nani are having to get back into midfield to fill in. We have the attacking talent but we need the support of a defensive midfielder to utilise that.

  6. Charles says:

    Oh do not take the Keane comparison out of context, it was just something I’d read, not something with which I agreed at the time nor with which I agree currently.

  7. JB says:

    It really disappoints me when I see people having a go at Anderson and calling for him to be sold as he’s no good, These of course are the same idiots that were calling for Nani to be sold! Like Nani all Anderson really needs is a good solid run in the first team rather then playing a few games then being dropped or picking up an injury. In his first season he was great and looked an exciting player,so hopefully with a consistent run in the side he will show and improve on that early promise.

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