Anderson remains one of Man United’s great riddles

Andersen-Manchester-United-TottenhaManchester United midfielder Anderson could be on his way out of Old Trafford if several ‘reports’ coming out of Brazil are to be believed. So far the only English paper to take these rumors seriously is The Sun, which doesn’t say much for the validity of the story, with various different “sources close to the player” or “people milling around in an airport in Rio” claiming the Brazilian is close to agreeing a move with Vasco da Gama after failing to turn up for training with the champions on Tuesday.

The £18m signing from Porto is alleged to be in Rio to talk to Vasco’s executive director Rodrigo Caetano, but the only quote with a name attached is from Caetano himself who’s said;

“He used to play for me, and he’s a great guy. We’re not in negotiations – he’s on a good contact at United.”

So, in reality, who knows? Probably not The Sun. Though if the story does turn out to have weight I’m sure they’ll plaster the back pages of tomorrows paper with pictures of today’s under the banner “You heard it here first” while the 50 other sourceless rumors are filed away under “whoops! Never mind” next to “Straight sex cannot give you AIDS – Official” and Kelvin MacKenzie.

However there’s little doubt that the samba star has found life at the Premier League Champions a little tricky at times and remains an enigma at Old Trafford. Rumours of bust ups with Sir Alex and late night shenanigans in hotel rooms have abounded and while relatively unsubstantiated, there’s often no smoke without kindling.

Anderson, 21, has had a stop start career at United so far. Often looking assured, confident, and a guaranteed future world class star, he’s just as often looked a little lost and out of his depth. Signed as possible replacement for Paul Scholes in the eyes of many United fans, the midfielder instantly turned out to be a battling box to box player, much to the surprise of everyone who bases their opinions of players on youtube videos.  His first year in English football was an unmitigated success, as almost everything was for the Red Devils that season, but his second year saw him lose his form, his momentum and his place in the side on a regular basis. This year has been promoted as his ‘make or break’ season, which is, in my view, wildly unfair on a 21 year old South American midfielder who’s potential is there for all to see and who is still ahead of most of his peer group when age and position are taken into account. In the age of Fabregas, Rooney and Ronaldo, fans have forgotten that these are once in a generation players, not the norm. Central midfielders rarely if ever reach anywhere near their peak before their mid 20s. Fabregas is a freak of nature.

The sight of a chubby, teenage, Brazilian Keenan Thompson look-alike running around in the rain at Bolton in mid winter with short sleeves instantly endeared Anderson to the fans, and while his appearances this season so far have been sporadic, he’s shown glimpses of the game running player he could one day be. Interestingly his best games have come against the top sides. A commanding performance against Arsenal at Old Trafford in 2008 that saw him nutmeg Fabregas with a back heel instantly prompted a catchy terrace chant (which we’re unable to print on here for reasons of decency) and in the 1-0 defeat of Liverpool at Anfield that same season and the same score defeat at Chelsea this, he was clearly United’s best midfielder, if not outright player. And yet a poor and slightly underwhelming performance was never far away.

He’s blessed with undoubted natural ability and an eye for a pass to match the great Scholes at times, but his preferred method of delivering these, which invariably involve hitting it as hard as he possibly can as soon as he possibly can, and his complete and utter uselessness in front of goal have grown frustrating at times. His only goal for the club in close to 100 appearances came at Spurs this season. Before, and since, he’s constantly displayed his inability to hit a barn door with a heat seeking missile, even if the barn was full of burning radiators and lit fireworks. Surely he should be improving now? Claim his detractors.

But I think it would be a shame for United to loose him now. He’s probably a few Chickens short of a coup, but at still only 21, he remains United’s best potential prospect in the center. Better than the still improving Darren Fletcher was at his age and already a year older and several strides above Darron Gibson, Anderson still remains a massive asset for the club, especially when their midfield is at the weakest it’s looked for some years now. At his best he has the ability to boss matches with a Ronaldinho like enjoyment of the game. But behind the smiles, there seem to lie the tears of a clown. And if he really has walked out of United, he only needs to glance the way of bigger names than he in David Beckham, Jaap Stam, Paul Ince, Ruud Van Nistelrooy and Dwight Yorke to see how likely the chances of redemption are.