Amongst endless, tiresome speculation over whether or not Wesley Sneijder will be donning the United colours one man, already wearing the shirt, has been striving through pre-season to prove he can fill the much talked-up Paul Scholes sized hole in the team.
Anderson’s move to Manchester saw him weighted with high expectations for two reasons. Firstly United paid a fee reported to be around the mark of £17 million. This sum would cause the fans, who knew little about the Brazilian, to believe the United staff knew something about him to justify the price tag. Secondly the timing of Anderson’s arrival was significant. The summer of 2007, Manchester United key midfield cog Paul Scholes was aged 32 and so a 19 year old Brazilian midfielder would seem like the perfect apprentice and successor.
Excitement that United may have just tucked their future midfield kingpin under their wing shrivelled with doubt as Anderson failed to explode on to the scene at Old Trafford. Anderson showed slight signs of having the capability to develop into the player many may have expected him to. He could play a few decent passes, something he could surely develop as an understudy to the master in this field. He also appeared to have a good amount of strength about him allowing him to push players off the ball and get stuck in to give United a presence in the midfield. However on the whole Anderson did not have the most impressive start to his United career.
Unfortunately the excuse of the Brazilian needing time to settle in to life in England and at the club was becoming less and less valid as Anderson continued to fail to impress. Not only was he not impressing, but the slight signs of quality he was showing initially were now more fading than developing. In fact Anderson did not score his first competitive goal for United until September 2009 after two years of being at the club. Anderson was failing in making any impact at United and was most certainly falling short of the mark in becoming a replacement for Scholes.
Four years on from the signing of Anderson and Paul Scholes has retired and as of yet there is an arguable lack of attacking creativity in United’s choice of centre midfielders. With a gap in the team and a name to be made there is no better time for Anderson to step up to the mark.
No longer in the shadow of Scholes and without the expectations to play up to maybe this can be Anderson’s season. Whilst he may have the chance to prove himself to fill the gap left by Scholes he does not necessarily have to be Scholes. One reason as to why Anderson has not overly impressed at United may be because of expectations to play just like Scholes. The timing of his signing made him a Paul Scholes replacement and so was expected to play like him.
Anderson is actually quite a different player. His strong physical build allows him to get in amongst the action and jostle players for the ball in a bulldog fashion. A trait which can unsettle defenders and put pressure on a team’s back four. It could also allow Anderson to play a large part in helping United win games in the midfield by winning the ball in the midfield and having the strength to hold on to it. Scholes contributed to United’s goal scoring often, and whilst he has a pretty woeful goal tally Anderson has shown that given the chances he can finish and has netted in pre-season.
Anderson has had a bumpy start to life in Manchester amid rarely getting consecutive whole games, injuries and playing in the shadows of high expectations. However now may the time for the Brazilian to step up to the mark and prove that the answer to the midfield worry at United is already in the team.