Why Anderson Has Been Manchester United's Biggest Disappointment so Far in 2013
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There are several candidates for Manchester United's most disappointing player of 2013, let alone for the season so far.
Antonio Valencia, Ashley Young and Anderson are fairly obvious, but Shinji Kagawa, Danny Welbeck, Nani, Phil Jones, Wayne Rooney and even Robin van Persie are candidates for different reasons.
Kagawa, Valencia and Young have only recently showed signs of being fully recovered from their injuries. Jones and Nani have been similarly blighted but should be back this weekend.
Welbeck has shown up well in some games, especially the two Real Madrid ties, but has still only scored two goals in 33 matches all season.
Rooney and van Persie looked like a formidable partnership early in the season, but Rooney's form has been patchy despite scoring 16 goals and van Persie seems to have lost his scoring touch for the moment.
Nevertheless, Sir Alex Ferguson should have a full squad to pick from this weekend (except the luckless Darren Fletcher) and is expected to field two very different teams on Saturday and Monday.
Anderson will almost certainly feature in one of those matches but will have to produce better form than recently, because right now he is surely staring at the exit this summer.
Anderson is not the same player Sir Alex bought six years ago
It's hard to work out quite what has happened with Anderson.
He is a fan-favourite and plenty of us really want him to succeed. Indeed this article will probably provoke some reaction from those who think he should be given more time.
There are, not surprisingly, also those who think the changes made to Anderson since his arrival have been to his detriment.
As a precocious teenager at Gremio he was "the next big thing," likened to players like Ronaldinho.
When United stepped in as interest in him grew, they probably thought they were getting one of the brightest young talents playing in Europe. And there were no work permit issues because he had been playing in Portugal.
Yes, a broken leg had not helped, but assuming he had made a full recovery, he was exactly what United were looking for.
He was a very bright attacking player, equally adept on the wing or through the middle.
Everyone who comes to United is developed further. In Anderson's case he had limited defensive skills and they were grafted on so that he could play deeper or in a holding role if called upon.
Further injury problems have intervened, to be fair, but there has also been a nagging feeling that he has not always been fit enough over the last six years. Even now he doesn't seem able to last 90 minutes and is certainly heavier than when he arrived.
Over his injuries?
Last season was undoubtedly a frustrating one for Anderson and the club. He and Tom Cleverley had starred in the Community Shield victory over Manchester City and they looked like being United's next midfield pairing.
Then he got injured again and never seemed to recover his form either. He had made 12 appearances up to late October that year, then only made a further four: three in January and one in March while United tried to get him fully fit.
This season he has played more games so far (21), but only managed six by the end of October.
What was particularly frustrating was that when United failed to sign Lucas Moura (a player who resembles a younger Anderson in style), he must have thought this was his chance to save Sir Alex over £30 million.
He has been pretty much injury-free apart from a hamstring injury in December. He has played a total of seven matches in the two months since his most recent return but apart from flashes of brilliance, once again his form has been indifferent.
And here are the most telling statistics: United have conceded in 17 of the 21 games he has played this season and they have only scored more than one goal in six of the last 12 that he has featured in.
In the last 15 matches Cleverley has played United have scored more than one on 11 occasions; Michael Carrick's stats for the whole season are 25 and 12, respectively.
So something seems to be wrong somewhere.
Maybe he is not quite sure of his role, or it doesn't quite suit him?
Carrick seems completely at home in both a holding role and making incisive passes to create goal-scoring chances and Cleverley's work rate is phenomenal with him seeming just as happy interchanging in attack or helping out in defence.
Meanwhile, like Nani, Anderson looks like a fish out of water when United have to track back; he doesn't make enough damaging breaks forward for a player of his quality. And most infuriating of all he seems to give the ball away to the opposition more than most other players.
His statement in February, reasserting his wish to stay seemed to smack somewhat of desperation. It wasn't very convincing comparing himself to Jose Kleberson. After all, Kagawa has just knuckled down and openly acknowledged he still has work to do to get up to United's and the Premier League's standards.
The difference is that next season you could see Kagawa running the show, but not Anderson unfortunately.
His best chance is if United can wrap up the title as soon as possible and in addition run all the way to the FA Cup final. That way he will have more games to show what he can do.
But this is his last chance to show why United have invested so much money and belief in a player who has only made 162 appearances, including substitutions, in six seasons.
The sands of time are running against him. As arguably the most disappointing player since the turn of the year you would have to bet he will be sold or used as a makeweight in a deal for an incoming player.
And that would be a pity. He was a truly exciting player when he first joined United. He has a great personality and the fans love him. But right now he is a luxury United cannot afford with Nick Powell coming through and better, brighter players possibly available in Europe.
And for anyone who still needs convincing, here is a selection of his Premier League stats this term:
12 starts (including six substitute appearances) but only one goal and one assist; not surprising considering he has only totaled seven shots.
His overall passing accuracy is not bad at 88 percent, but he cannot afford truly bad matches like Southampton where he completed just 66 percent.
It is his defending which is most suspect. A 73 percent tackle success rate seems OK, but he only attempted tackles in six matches and made eleven all season.
Finally, in this snapshot of his contribution, while he had a much more effective match against Reading with two successful clearances from four attempts, he has only attempted three others in total in 11 matches.
In conclusion, although statistics may give a false picture, Cleverley and Carrick are much more effective, and on current form surely Powell can do better and should be given his chance.
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