Anderson Has Failed to Fulfil His Potential at Manchester United

Rob Dawson@@RobDawsonMENManchester United CorrespondentJanuary 13, 2014

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 28:  Anderson of Manchester United looks on during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester United and West Bromwich Albion at Old Trafford on September 28, 2013 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
Alex Livesey/Getty Images

A song, a penalty and a humorous, if perhaps inappropriate, Instagram caption. It says much about Anderson's Manchester United career that it can be summed up in such a sentence.

But then that wouldn't capture the disappointment, the frustration that the promise that came with his move from Porto six-and-a-half years ago has been unfulfilled. Perhaps most damning of all is that United, with all their problems in midfield, are seemingly willing to let him go. 

Either Anderson was overlooked for the squad to play Swansea on Saturday night or he was injured and David Moyes didn't feel the need to tell anyone.

Either way, it looks like the Brazilian midfielder is on borrowed time at Old Trafford. 

Moyes made a conscious effort to give each member of the United squad a fair chance when he took over in the summer. That Anderson has started just three games this season in a team without a midfield to speak of tells its own story. Often Moyes has preferred centre-half Phil Jones and 40-year-old Ryan Giggs instead.

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 14:  Anderson of Manchester United takes on Dwight Gayle (L) and Jason Puncheon of Crystal Palace (R) during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester United and Crystal Palace at Old Trafford on September 14, 20
Michael Regan/Getty Images

The Manchester Evening News are reporting that Fiorentina is the most likely destination after sporting director Daniele Prade claimed the 25-year-old is high up on their wish list.

Even with a chronic shortage of midfielders, it's unlikely United will stand in his way if he does choose to move to Serie A. After all, Anderson's chance to claim a regular place has been and gone. 

But he will still leave with a sense of what might have been. 

What if he could have regularly found the form that saw him to dominate both legs of the 2009 Champions League semi-final against Arsenal? What if he could have repeated the composure he summoned to smash his penalty past Petr Cech in the 2008 final?

MOSCOW - MAY 21:  Anderson of Manchester United beats Petr Cech of Chelsea as he scores a penalty in the shoot out during the UEFA Champions League Final match between Manchester United and Chelsea at the Luzhniki Stadium on May 21, 2008 in Moscow, Russia
Alex Livesey/Getty Images

The truth is that his legacy at Old Trafford will extend to his song rather than anything he did on the pitch.

"Ander...son-son-son," sing the Stretford End to the tune of Agadoo, "he's better than Kleberson; Anderson-son-son, he's our midfield magician."

It goes on to mention that Champions League semi-final against Arsenal, perhaps his finest moment in a United shirt, but the language gets a bit colourful during the description of his treatment of Cesc Fabregas.

His departure will deprive the fans of a page from their songbook and the club of a player who could, perhaps should, have been great. 

But for every surging run through midfield, for each delicate pass inside the full-back, there has been a story off the field.

He was involved in a car crash in Portugal in 2010 and there have been almost constant accusations that his weight and attitude to training have not been at the required level. He hasn't helped himself either, once uploading a picture of a gourmet meal to Instagram with the caption "I'd rather be at McDonald's."

But it still feels like a missed opportunity. 

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 22:  Anderson and Javier Hernandez of Manchester United joke around during a training session at Aon Training Complex on October 22, 2013 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Since arriving at United from Portugal as a 19-year-old in 2007, he has played in a era of minimal investment in United's midfield. 

Owen Hargreaves, who signed during the same summer, barely played one full season while Darren Fletcher has had to battle a debilitating stomach condition. Paul Scholes was already 33 when Anderson arrived and has since retired, come back and retired again.

But still he hasn't be able to make himself first choice.

There are few players United fans want to succeed more than Anderson. His big smile and fun-loving personality make him easy to like, but even his most vocal supporters will admit he hasn't fulfilled his potential.

They will point to the two serious knee injuries that have hampered his progress, but he's been at United for more than six years and his longest run in the team is seven games at the end of 2010. That's not much of a return on a player who cost £20m as a teenager.

That there are probably more fans of his song than his ability among United's support is evidence enough that Anderson's time should come to an end. But there will always be Arsenal. And that penalty.