Last night’s victory over Chelsea has moved Manchester United that little bit closer to what was almost unthinkable a few months ago- the treble.
While the ‘T’ word may only be being whispered cautiously by many Reds, there’s no denying that with just eleven games standing between United and ultimate success, it’s hard for even the most pessimistic not to be thinking it may just be possible.
Saturday’s game at Wembley is yet another ‘cup final’ -even though it’s a semi- which is being touted as the ‘biggest derby of all time.’ The strange thing is, I’m sure the ‘biggest derby of all time’ has already happened twice this season and four times in the previous campaign, so I suppose every game against our ‘noisy neighbours’ will be prefixed with this sensationalist tagline for the foreseeable future.
United’s squad is in fairly good shape- in fact by usual standards it’s actually pretty amazing with only long term injury Owen Hargreaves out and Darren Fletcher yet to recover from his extra long virus. It’s ironically in the central midfield department that most of the ABU mob have picked up on United’s lack of a truly world-class player, at least according to them anyway.
Paul Scholes, may be one of the best midfielders ever but his age is often cited as a reason he can’t be truly relied upon to dominated games, at least not consistently as often as he did in the past.
Michael Carrick has gone a long way to winning over some of his many critics in recent weeks although it seems it will take a lot more than two superb Champions League games to convince everyone.
There’s also Ryan Giggs, of course who proved last night, once again that on his day he’s still the greatest player at the club and capable of dominating games in the way so-called £50 million players can only dream of.
One man who could find himself playing an important role in the centre of United’s midfield is Mr.Luís de Abreu Oliveira or Anderson as his mum calls him. The young Brazilian who celebrates his birthday today- has returned from injury not quite with a vengeance but at the very least a focused determination to make an impact on the first team.
A rare brace of goals for the reserves against City followed by a solid display against Fulham have shown that Anderson’s not too far away from reaching the sort of match sharpness required for the big games, of which there are many on the horizon.
Playing in the reserves this evening means that United’s number eight may not start against City this weekend but there’s every chance he could figure in next Tuesday’s game against Newcastle at St. James’s.
The thing that separates Anderson from many of his central midfield colleagues is that he’s one of the few players who can carry the ball forward over long distances, plus his tenacious ability to keep hold of it even when surrounded by opposition players.
Carrick may be more disciplined and Scholes’s passing more accurate but there’s no denying that Anderson offers United that something different that could prove vital in certain games.
The Brazilian’s had his fair share of injuries over the course of his Old Trafford career and the general consensus seems to be that he should have kicked on by now following his 18 million Euro move from Porto.
His first season was something of an annus mirabilis topped off by his confident strolling up to the penalty spot to smash the ball past Petr Cech as though it was the easiest thing in the world.
That’s one trait of Anderson’s I love- his confidence. Unlike Carrick, Gibson or occasionally even Fletcher who sometimes seem to look as though they lack a bit of belief, Anderson plays with the swagger of a man who genuinely thinks he’s the best player on the pitch.
His ‘look one way and pass the other’ move not to mention his chest puffed out Cantona-esque strolling around the pitch and willingness to run through a seemingly insurmountable amount of players and ability to get stuck in all make him a player who it’s easy to enjoy watching.
The Old Trafford faithful certainly took to him, with the “Anderson-son-son” chant quickly becoming a favourite among many Reds.
That’s not to say Anderson isn’t without his faults of course, injuries aside, his often woeful finishing, plus the way he’ll dominate one game, only to be anonymous in the next one can often test the patience of even his most ardent supporters. Then there’s his fitness and weight which seems to fluctuate between ‘stocky’ and ‘podgy’ depending on how long he’s been out.
It would be foolish to claim that Anderson’s the most consistent of players or that he’s truly convinced everyone he’s got a long-term future at United. For the time being though, his services could prove vital, particularly with the run United have coming up.
Someone like Anderson who’s willing to battle, yet has the skill to carry the ball forward could be the key to victory in some of the games coming up. If Darren Fletcher doesn’t achieve match fitness soon, then Anderson could well be the man to take charge of the midfield in the Premier League clashes against Arsenal and Chelsea.
I know United have coped well in his absence but a player of his ability, fighting fit and raring to go could make the difference between a 2003 type season and a 1999 one.
Am I overestimating the Brazilian’s importance? Is he destined to be just a bit part player? Or is this, like an Anderson goal, one of the rare moments that I actually make some sense? Feel free to comment below:
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