How David Moyes Can Rescue Anderson's Man Utd Career
Manchester United midfielder Anderson is quite possibly the most divisive player in the Premier League, with many of his own club's supporters queueing up to describe him as fat, useless and several more hostile words to the same effect.
At the same time, there are still those who continue to believe in his abilities and persevere in the faith that he may yet come good on his early potential.
Before all his injury problems, he was a very useful player in a number of midfield roles and, in his early years, was a quite brilliant young forward.
His critics are not without reasoning, though. Anderson has, at times, been well below the fitness levels expected of a top-flight professional and his performances have duly suffered.
With a lack of regular games since the beginning of the 2011-12 season, though, it is perhaps understandable that he would be out of sorts when used.
He has undeniably become a scapegoat among some sections of the support. He is lambasted for every misplaced pass or skewed shot, while other players will avoid similar comments.
It has, in short, become fashionable to criticise the Brazilian.
The decision not to use Shinji Kagawa more than once this season has come under much scrutiny in media outlets around the world.
However, there is a good argument to say that Anderson was just as required in early games.
The Brazilian had a good preseason campaign in Asia and came into the season in the best shape he has been for some time. Thus far, though, he has been rewarded with just four minutes of Premier League football—despite the club's glaring lack of options in central midfield.
On Tuesday, Anderson spoke of his desire to succeed at Old Trafford and the effort he has put in to ensure he is in good shape for the season ahead, per Inside United via the club website.
I just want to play as many games as I can. I just hope I can stay clear of injuries. I’ve been training hard on the training pitch and in the gym, and working on my conditioning. I am pleased with how things are going and, whenever the manager needs me, I will be ready.
I have been doing more running, which has helped my fitness. The physios in Portugal have helped me a lot, as have all the coaches at United. I have also been working hard myself. I have built up the strength in my knee, worked hard in training.
I have been eating well and sleeping well, while I have also been coming into training on my days off to do more work. It has really helped me and I feel great.
I think it’s a big season for me. For everyone. However, I don’t want to say that and then pick up another injury. I have often started seasons well, played six or seven games and then got injured. I’ll tell you at the end of the season if it’s been a big season for me!
It is a familiar story. Indeed, it is only a few weeks since Anderson relayed a similar message to the Manchester Evening News' Andy Mitten.
He is determined, he says, to move on from his injury problems and be a success with the Red Devils.
Anderson's future, in many ways, may depend on how Moyes chooses to set up his Manchester United side.
Should he opt for a 4-3-3, then the Brazilian is ideal for the role at the head of the midfield, but question marks would then be raised over the roles of Kagawa and Wayne Rooney—who would be forced wide by the formation.
However, given the club's high-profile interest in Athletic Bilbao's Ander Herrera, per The Guardian, it is a setup that must surely have been Moyes' intention had the Basque player also joined Marouane Fellaini in arriving at Old Trafford.
In the same Mitten article, however, it is teammate Rio Ferdinand who points out just how useful Anderson can be to a top-level side:
I don’t think his talent has ever been in doubt, but he’s had a few injuries over the years. If he gets a clean bill of health, who knows what he can do?
He’s different from any other player we’ve got. In today’s game, if you have a player who can go past people in the middle of the park then it’s a big commodity. Anderson can do that, but we’ve never been able to get that out of him on a consistent basis because of injuries.
He’s got the potential to do it. If he can stay fit this season then it will be almost like having a new signing.
It was that dynamism that saw Anderson star in his early days at Manchester United and convinced the club to persevere with his switch into central midfield. His best position, though, remains in attacking midfield.
Anderson is a good passer of a ball, maintaining an 86 percent completion rate over the past two seasons, and is a good dribbler of the ball, as Ferdinand suggests. He may lack the pace of his twinkle-toed younger self, but he is still no slouch over 20-30 yards with the ball at his feet.
With the addition of Fellaini, presumably to partner Michael Carrick in the midfield pivot, Anderson's qualities could prove very useful in linking the duo with the club's attacking options.
Kagawa is the man many would tip for the role, but the Japanese star prefers to operate off the centre-forward—rather than moving forward from just ahead of the midfield.
Rooney also sees his ability to influence the game limited in a deeper role.
If this is the system that Moyes chooses to pursue and it comes down to a simple choice between Anderson and Tom Cleverley, then it is the Brazilian who has the better potential for impact—if fit and confident.
Both players' form has suffered from being used as a deep-lying central midfielder and both have seen that loss of form and injury leave them visibly bereft of belief.
With the arrival of Fellaini, one of the duo should be afforded a run of games in their preferred role.
Kagawa would then play from the left—just as he does to great effect for Japan and he did in his best game for United when he scored a hat-trick against Norwich.
Nani, Rooney or even Valencia could then operate from the right in a side that would be both well balanced and designed to play possession-based football.
The advantage of having a double pivot is that both full-backs—ideally Rafael and Patrice Evra—would be freed up to overlap on the flanks, meaning the left and right-sided forwards are free to come infield.
If playing from the left is the best way to keep the likes of Kagawa in the final third, then so be it. It is a better alternative to him being dragged into a midfield battle.
There is also no reason, if the team is well balanced, to suggest he must hog the touchline—that should be the domain of the full-back.
Should Moyes give Anderson a chance to impress this season?
Thus Moyes should show faith in Anderson. In January, if the scheme does not work out as planned, he could return for Herrera as has been suggested, per the Daily Mail, which would lead to a similar setup anyway.
If Anderson leaves Old Trafford without succeeding, he will leave a sense of regret at what will have been a wasted talent. Given that he is still at the club and seemingly working hard, he is worth one more chance.
He has shown in the past that he can be an important player for United when given a run of games. If Moyes can make Anderson believe in his own abilities again and become less tentative than he appeared last season, there may just be life in his Red Devils' career yet.
As with Nani, it is very much a case of now or never for Anderson.
In giving the Portuguese a new contract, Moyes has shown faith in his future and he should now do likewise with the Brazilian—but with game-time rather than a new deal just yet.
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