There has rightly been a lot expected of Anderson at Manchester United. A big fee paid out for potential rather than an instant reward and perhaps a feeling that the young Brazilian maybe needed one more year at Porto. But nevertheless, his star was on the rise.
Foolishly in hindsight, there were a number proclaiming Anderson had potential to surpass Cesc Fabregas as one of the leading midfielders in world football. A fair assessment at the time: Both were of similar age, both operated in similar roles and both had the expectation to be or become the centrepiece of their respective squads.
The successes for Anderson started straight away. He featured in a considerable number of games for United in his debut season, ending the year with the League and Champions League double. The only hitch was the disappointment that his solitary goal all season came in the shootout against Chelsea in Moscow. No big deal, but he was touted as somewhat of a decent goal scorer.
But from then on, his career at Old Trafford did seem to stand motionless—not really regressing but certainly not living up to the expectation.
The idea, obviously, was for him to pick up where Paul Scholes would eventually leave off. He had the tenacity to succeed with the physical demands of a Premier League midfield and his Brazilian heritage meant that he had a few tricks in his locker. He was able to force his authority on a game; sometimes, but not consistently enough, pulling the strings from just behind the attacking players.
Definitely something to look forward to, even if the displays of ability wasn’t an every-week occurrence. His lack of height was compensated by his aggressive game and desire to get up and down the pitch, blossoming into more of a box-to-box midfielder rather than just a creator, and playing a part in United’s devastating attacks.
However, we keep going back to that issue of not seeing it enough. Anderson is now 24, and at what point do United concede that there might not be that much more to come from the Brazilian?
His career has of course been plagued by injury, perhaps also providing Alex Ferguson with his final decision to recall Paul Scholes last season. But was he maybe used in the wrong role in midfield? Unlikely. He was capable of fulfilling the requirements of his role and sitting a little deeper in midfield than what he did at Porto. But it’s his lack of consistency over the years that has really played a part in the stalling of his development.
His contributions on certain big stages and in important phases through a season have been telling, but he also lacks the discipline to hold a starring role in the midfield. With him, there is a necessity to place a ball-winning midfield close by.
A huge disappointment for the player will be the likely introduction of another midfielder at Old Trafford. Anderson may be able to contribute in a squad role capacity, but his lack of consistency over the years definitely raises questions as to the impact he can make as a bit-part player.
His time thus far at United has been disappointing overall. The potential and the transfer fee paid for Anderson certainly indicated that here was a player who would play an integral role in the side for many years.
For now, his age is on his side, but there might not be a lot left for him at United for the long term.