Anderson. Inconsistency. Two words which seem to be glued to each other as much as Javier Hernandez and goal. But when thought about from a different angle, offer an entirely different meaning.
The greatest reason for the Samba star’s inconsistency is due to the intense competition for a place in the Manchester United midfield. When you had the likes of Paul Scholes to vie against for a spot on the team along with Darren Fletcher and a rejuvenated Michael Carrick, it was inevitable his game time would be limited.
However, with the sadness of Scholes’ retirement comes the blessing in disguise of Anderson’s time to shine… and boy will he do it.
Just rewind your minds back to a chilly October evening against Roma in the Champions League group stage. We won 1-0 thanks to a clinical Wayne Rooney strike but more significantly, Michael Carrick broke his elbow, sidelining him for six weeks. A few weeks later in another Champions League group stage clash in a simple 4-2 victory over Dynamo Kiev, Scholes suffered a knee ligament injury. The result being he would be out for three months. With Fletcher not yet the finished product as we would see he would become a season later and leaving just two options for the central midfielder partnership, Sir Alex Ferguson had no option but to put faith in Anderson and Owen Hargreaves.
His summer acquisitions first game as a pairing would be none other than Arsenal at the Emirates, who topped the table at the time of the game. Despite coming up against the tough-tackling, energetic Mathieu Flamini and the creative Cesc Fabregas, Anderson and Hargreaves dominated proceedings from start to finish. Michael Carrick came on late on but the duo was so impressive, they were guaranteed to stay together for another while. Although the game finished 2-2, with Gallas grabbing a last-minute equaliser, a star was born that day. His name was Anderson.
Perhaps it was this game that the first few lines of the Anderson chant were inspired from as the Brazilian midfielder bossed the game alongside the Englishman. Their boundless energy and constant hounding of the opposition, added with Anderson’s desire to venture forward ensured that Arsenal’s midfield twosome were always on the back foot.
The duo’s next massive game came against Liverpool at Anfield. After weeks of gelling as a partnership, their combination found its finest hour (and a half) on Merseyside. With Carlos Tevez scoring the only goal on the day to get us the three points, it was the superb marshalling job of the duo who nullified the threat of Steven Gerrard. With Anderson driving at the heart of the Liverpool defence with his powerful runs, he tortured Javier Mascherano in a man of the match performance.
Such was the immensity of his work, he was hauled off in injury time as Sir Alex allowed the travelling crowd to applaud the midfield maestro off the pitch. Going head to head with Gerrard also during the game portrayed his growing confidence in his ability as he outmuscled, outfought and outmanoeuvred a bamboozled Liverpool midfield. However this game also signalled the full return of Carrick and the end of the duo together as their momentum was disrupted due to Ferguson’s tinkering to keep players fresh for the second half of the campaign.
Anderson produced that form sporadically in the remainder of the season as Carrick and Scholes pulled the strings in the run-in our Double winning season. When he was involved in the final furlongs of the season though, he was not as influential or intelligent in terms of controlling the midfield. With his season ending by blasting home an important penalty in our Moscow Champions League win, big things were expected of the ex-Porto player for the coming season.
The beginning of his 2008-09 season was spent in Beijing in the Olympics as he helped Brazil win the bronze medal at the Games and this disruption harmed his attempts to dislodge Carrick and Scholes in the centre of the pitch. He failed to reach those dizzy heights of the previous season despite achieving some excellent goals including playing 88 minutes of our Club World Cup final victory in December and converting the winning penalty in the League Cup final shoot-out against Tottenham Hotspur.
Also earlier in the season, he broke his duck for United by scoring his first competitive goal for the club against Spurs also, rifling in a loose ball to the bottom right corner to help us to a 3-1 win. Again with it being in the beginning part of the season, Ferguson gave him a run of games, 8 in a row in fact which included one goal and five assist in that time. That run gave an indication as to how instrumental he can be given a string of games to impress in.
His 2009-10 campaign was seriously interrupted by more injuries as a serious knee injury against West Ham United in a league match ended his season. The blow was compounded as his six month absence meant he could take no part in his nation’s World Cup campaign that year, even more depressing considering he had just consolidated his position in Brazil’s national team squad.
As his preparations for the following season were in tatters, he only made his first appearance of the 2010-11 season by coming off the bench against Liverpool. He replaced Dimitar Berbatov after the striker’s match-winning hat-trick against the Merseysiders and he scored another goal several weeks later in a Champions League game against Valencia, to double his tally for the club.
His endeavours and commitment to coming back from that terrible injury were rewarded mere days after that goal as he put pen to paper on a new five-year deal tying him to the club until 2015, underlining Sir Alex’s faith in the former Gremio man. His season wasn’t over yet as he scored a brace in our 4-1 home win against Schalke in the second-leg tie of the Champions league semi-final. This was followed up by a clinically finished goal against Blackpool added to a sumptuously weighed assist for Michael Owen’s goal to wrap up league campaign with a flourish. Before we lost out 3-1 to Barcelona in the final, Anderson collected his third Premier League winners medal as he could look forward to a relaxing summer break with a mixed year behind him.
He has enjoyed a terrific pre-season campaign thus far with the team over in the United States including a well-taken goal against the MLS All-Stars. His dominant performances in the middle of the park, albeit against wishy-washy opposition, suggest that he is ready to embark on his finest season yet with the club.
With Scholes retired and no other attacking midfielder at the club, he is assured of starting a large portion of game time next season. Even the legendary number 18 who kept him out of the team for so long has lauded the Brazilian midfielder saying he is will able to take his position as the creative force of the team. Despite our pursuit of Wesley Sneijder, I have full faith in Anderson producing his greatest form yet for the club and nailing down his starting berth once and for all. After all, he did “s*** on Fabregas!“