“Injury to Paul Scholes has given an extended run that he has grabbed and long-term I hope he can prove to be Paul’s successor.”
Those were the words of Sir Alex Ferguson back in 2010, the then-Manchester United manager suggesting Anderson had what it took to replace one of the club’s greatest ever midfielders.
So what went wrong? Well, in truth a bit of everything. Not least the player’s injury-record.
After all, whenever he did start to play his way into form – and there were moments when he and Tom Cleverley looked like being the next great midfield partnership – injury struck.
And then there was the sense that he was a little bit of everything but not enough of anything.
Two years before his move to Old Trafford, Anderson had starred for Brazil in the 2005 under-17 World Cup. In fact so good were his performances that he won the Golden Ball for standout player of the tournament.
He was a dynamic, goal-getting, all-energy midfielder; exactly what United were in need of. And yet in his time at Old Trafford his best performances came as more of an enforcer, and there was one occasion against Arsenal when he completely bossed the game.
In fact the one thing he certainly could not do was score – which was in stark contrast to his earlier reputation. But he did still have an eye for a pass, and there would be moments, whether as a substitute or a starter, that he threaded the ball through the eye of a needle. He just could not do it consistently.
And now he has left United for Fiorentina, saying the following to Football Italia on his arrival in Italy: “I don’t have a preferred position on the pitch. I just came here to try to help with the players, help the team and help the manager. I do my best.”
While his sentiments were admirable, perhaps in that brief statement he also hit the nail no the head regarding the confusion over his erratic displays. Anderson needs to have a preferred position, he needs to focus on a certain skill-set and develop it.
If he focused on being a defensive midfielder with an impressive passing-range, he may just fulfil his potential. His injury record suggests he will never be the long-busting box-to-box midfielder he was as a teenager, but if he refines his game, he can still be a huge success.
He certainly has the passion for the game, but a player without a preferred position…well you know what they say about a jack of all trades but a master of none.
image: © Gordon Flood