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Anderson provides midfield balance

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Tim Vickery | 18:29 UK time, Monday, 25 May 2009

At a conference in Rio in December 2007, a panel of big name local coaches were discussing the essence of Brazilian football.

One point was made a few times, that Manchester United were playing their expensive new signing Anderson in central midfield, a role that no coach in his native land would have considered for a nanosecond.

In order to get inside the mentality, first we have to jettison the myth. The conception of Brazil as a mass producer of gloriously talented footballers is entirely true. But the idea that their teams take the field with no concern for tactics and a reckless disregard for defence is false and always has been. Brazil, for example, invented the back four in order to have extra defensive cover.

This last myth has been especially wide of the mark since the early 80s. First, there was the failure of the glorious, flowing 1982 team to win the World Cup. Then, there was the decreasing job security for coaches in domestic football. The response to the 'three defeats and you're sacked' mentality was for the coaches to play safe, and pack central midfield with marking specialists.

Anderson in action against Arsenal

Zizinho, Pele's idol and the outstanding player of the 1950 World Cup, was a deep tactical thinker. In 1985, he published his autobiography and in his closing words put his finger on the problem: "In Brazil they have given the central midfielder, the man who has 70% of his team's possession in his power, the specific function of destroying, when it should be to set up the play."

After he wrote those words the trend became even more pronounced, with the reliance on attacking full-backs forcing the central midfielders to become ever more defensive and so, a strict division of labour has applied in the midfield. Teams field two "volantes" - to mark and cover - and two "meias" - attacking midfielders who operate further forward.

Until he joined United, Anderson was never remotely a "volante". He played some youth football as an attacking left-back, but made his name in what was seen as his natural position as a "meia".

I well recall him starring as an attacking midfielder in World Under-17 Cup in Peru in September 2005. He was voted Player of the Tournament and his performance in the semi-final against Turkey was one of the most devastating individual displays I have ever seen.

He charged through to set up a goal after 15 seconds, scored a glorious solo second, hit the bar with a free-kick, put his team-mates clean through three or four times - and in the final seconds, after Turkey had forced their way back to 3-3, his run took out their entire defence before he squared the ball for the centre-forward to tap home the winner.

The virtues showcased that night - physical strength and strength on the ball, a burst of acceleration and sustained pace, the ability to play a pass under pressure - are the same ones that have evidently persuaded the United coaching staff that he can be effective in central midfield.

To play the role he has had to add new things to his game. Previously in his career there had not been much call for defensive awareness and tackling skills. By helping him get these aspects up to scratch, United then have the benefit of his fluid passing through midfield, and his mobility in getting up to support the strikers.

It has been a bold switch by United. But as one who was wowed by Anderson on that night in Peru, a nagging doubt remains - not a conviction, nowhere near, just a doubt.

Could it be that in this new role Anderson is forced to sacrifice a bit too much of what he is naturally good at? He is now operating in a zone where giving the ball away can be disastrous. Launching one of those dribbles he unleashed against the Turks is high risk.

This necessity to rein in some of his attacking instincts might help explain his curious lack of goals for United - though this is perhaps an unfair statistic. In last year's Champions League final he came straight off the bench to confidently stroke home a high pressure penalty in the shoot-out - a strike worth plenty of Premier League goals.

One year on, Anderson is likely to have a bigger role to play in Wednesday's final. The game will surely be a test of his recently acquired defensive skills as Lionel Messi will be cutting across his zone in his trademark diagonal runs from the Barcelona right flank.

But if United are slight favourites, it is because they appear to have a better balance between attack and defence and Anderson, the newly converted "volante", is a physical embodiment of that balance.


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  • Comment number 1.

    Anderson is too wasteful, he can be effective but sometimes he is counter-productive. With Barcelona possessing such attacking threats Anderson cannot afford to be wayward at all.

  • Comment number 2.

    Well, he is highly regarded by Fergie and i think he is developing him into a complete midfielder. Ando was bought to replace Scholsey and one thing Scholsey is lacking in his game is his defensive attributes. I think Anderson is developing the defensive side to his game and when Scholes retires, he will be let off the leash(i hope). But for now he is doing defensive duties and has been playing against some of the best midfielders in the world. Hes played well against Fabregas, Gerrard, Lampard but the Barca midfield will be a whole new challenge

  • Comment number 3.

    Excellent observation, Tim. This seems to be becoming a trend now cos Chelsea (starting with Mourinho) have done the exact same thing to Nigeria's John Obi Mikel. Except, he's gone even further in the defensive direction. Anderson at least makes forward bursts on occassion, whereas Mikel has become the new Makelele (except he can't tackle), wasting his excellent passing skills on square balls and back passes and hardly ever venturing past the centre line. He was an excellent attacking midfielder, setting up numerous goals when Nigeria finished 2nd at the 2005 World Youth cup. Not any more.

  • Comment number 4.

    The thing about Anderson is that I don't think that Fergie knows his best position. Being such a young lad I don't think Fergie wants to put him in attacking-midfield where Ronaldo and Rooney roam. He saw in a couple of games the physical presence he has(enough to keep Fabregas and Gerrard out in certain games) and his passing ability so puts him in the centre midfield.

    And ideal midfield for us would be Ronaldo and Park on the flanks, Hargreaves keeping the DM and then Anderson bombing forward in a diamond type formation. The reason that won't be used is because Carrick and Fletcher continue to put in very solid performances.

  • Comment number 5.

    The main question though, why can't Anderson shoot??

  • Comment number 6.

    Anderson is a pretty solid player but i've been pretty dissapointed at his unwillingness to shoot and therefore score any goals. When United signed him I watched countless youtube videos of him, blitzing past players and scoring screamers, but we havn't really seen that at United. Although he is a reliable player he can be very clumsy at some times. However he is developing into a very decent player, defensive midfielder not sure Tim. Overall, atleast we can look to Anderson with the knowledge that he has played well for the majority of the time..unlike his counterpart with which he signed..Nani.

  • Comment number 7.

    Nice article Tim. I love this observation as Untied often see something others don't in a player. What is important is that he is responding and I have great hopes for him next year.

    Isn't that what they bought Kleberson for too. His 2002 World Cup was fantastic and United learnt a lot from that unfortunate (for both parties) situation, young player straight from Brazil with young wife and new baby.

    I might add he is a very fair player too, stays on his feet a long time for a Brazilian. Please anyone who wishes to challenge this bare in mind I work with children in Sao Paulo and I see 5 year and upwards simulating in the play ground regularly as a result of what they watch on television and whilst it happens in every league in the World, it drives me crazy here.

  • Comment number 8.

    Utd's coaching staff might have assessed the situation and decided that he has the potential to develop into an well-rounded midfield player - someone who can tackle, break-up play, launch attacks, go on surging runs from deep, setup chances for others, and score goals. Knowing what he can do going forward, perhaps they've decided they needed to concentrate on a side of his that was previously lacking - defending and tactical discipline. I have a feeling that once they're satisfied with his discipline and the defensive side of his game they'll begin to give him more freedom going forward. He has already started to make those surging runs forward more frequently (especially in the second leg against Arsenal). I'm excited to see Anderson develop further. He is ONLY 21!!!

  • Comment number 9.

    Remember that he wouldn't have had so many games or have been required to play in this role if United's original volantes, Owen Hargreaves hadn't been injured. Watch this space next season.

  • Comment number 10.

    I think Anderson's brilliant - a real star. I'm always ecstatic when Fergie chooses him to start a match and personally I'd usually start him ahead of Scholes. He's this good now... imagine what he can be in 4 or 5 years!

  • Comment number 11.

    The jury is still out on Anderson for me. I don't really see him as a like-for-like eventual replacement for Scholes. He doesn't have that goal threat. Maybe in England we're obsessed with midfielders scoring goals to show their quality, we've always produced goalscoring midfielders like Bryan Robson, Platt, Scholes, and now Gerrard and Lampard but for me this is a key part of Anderson's game that he needs to work on - to develop that attacking threat. When everyone at Man Utd is fit you'd still have to say that Carrick, Fletcher, Hargreaves, and the veteran Scholes are all ahead of him in the pecking order. He'll probably play on Wednesday because Man Utd will play 4-3-3 with three central midfield spots, and Fletcher is suspended and Hargreaves injured, while Ferguson wants his energy against Barcelona ahead of Scholes. Although Anderson has performed well in a destructive central midfield role and shown his range of passing he hasn't really held down his place in the team yet.

  • Comment number 12.

    Anderson is gonna develop into a very good player because he's got the self discipline required to take to instructions... The jury is still out on him though... Imagine a fully fit United squad I definitely know who I'm gonna sick to do the defensive job... A natural defensive midfielder is better than a converted one... Enough said...

  • Comment number 13.

    Anderson is an incredible player, young and inconsistent but when he's in the mood he bosses the midfield, he's shown up class midfielders like Gerrard and Fabregas when he's been in the mood and it's picked up the whole team, his potential is incredible, he's got everything, what is odd, he can play a swish 50 yard pass to feet but when it comes to shooting from 20 yards, his technique is awful and his shots are awful, I only recall one good strike from distance and that was this season against Bolton! I hope he's in the mood against Barcelona, he'll be a key player for us.

  • Comment number 14.

    Decent article, Tim, and quite relevant to current events, obviously, with a few good points (albeit, ones you've mentioned before), specially regarding the skills Anderson has and can't really use at Man. U. due to his current tactical role, but could we see something different for next week?

    I mean, as a Brazilian, I love to hear what you have to say about Brazilian football and Brazilian footballers, but I also love your blog because you talk about football in other South American countries, being almost the sole source of info on some countries. Heck, I know more about the Argentinean league through your blog than from anywhere else!

  • Comment number 15.

    I think he plays the way you'd expect for a player who really wasn't meant to be in the first team this quickly. His failure to score I think is somewhat down to confidence, and once he breaks his duck that will change. He also does get pressurized into giving the ball away too often. But he's got good energy, he's fast and dribbles well. He won't replace Scholes per se, Scholes has (or more honestly, had) a remarkable awareness and reflexes that you either have or you don't, and you could search for a long time (like forever) without ever finding a one for one repalcement for him. But Anderson has a future at United, and he needs to be given more time to develop. Unlike Tim Vickery, I think this game comes too early in Anderson's development for him to really make a big impact- but I'd love it if he proved me wrong!

  • Comment number 16.


    Fergie has never gone for like-for-like replacements. OF course he hasn't held down his place in the team yet - HE IS ONLY 21!!! Hargreaves, Carrick and Fletcher are all in the prime of their careers.

  • Comment number 17.

    Tim, first commentor on your blog. Isn't this article a rehash of some of your old articles? I remember you writing the same stuff sometime in the middle of last season.

    What might have been interesting would be your take on Anderson's development? He is still prone to ball-watching and has no awareness of blocking passing channels nor does he have the quickness of mind and feet to become either a deep-lying playmaker or a retainer. To me, it still seems that he will end up as a meia as the attacking man in a 3-man midfield.

  • Comment number 18.

    The reason I think Anderson hasn't scored yet is that he doesn't quite know how to go forward with United's formation, but specially, that he tries to whack the ball with 100% power every single time he gets a shot. He never pulls back a bit, goes with 80% power for increased accuracy as far as hitting the ball center. The result is that his shots end up anywhere but where he wants to.

    That said, I hope he scores soon, and obviously this Wednesday wouldn't be a bad time to start.

  • Comment number 19.

    anderson has outstanding energy and skills in keeping the ball. his passing can let him down but his dribbling is excellent

    he just needs better decision making at the end - he always gets in or around the box and then fluffs it. confidence? over-eagerness? he's not used to score, but eventually he will

    i've noticed SAF has been using him as an AM when SAF goes 4-5-1 - 'meias'?

  • Comment number 20.

    Anderson's passing is up there when he gets it right but it is inconsistent.

  • Comment number 21.

    I can see this guy being a real force in the future.

    He showed consistency last year beyond his years, but due to Fletcher's form and injuries, he hasn't played enough this season (similarly, Nani has lost out due to the need for Park's workrate whenever Berbatov features).

    I personally think he's got it all: passing, determination, vision, pace, tackling, you name it. Goals will come with consistency: it inevitable with his ability and the players around him, if he stays at United as long as he should do (entire career).

    He's also, in my view, the closest thing to another Stevie Gerrard: the way he'll hunt down a player for the ball if he's lost it, and those driving runs from midfield we've seen him make; not many his age and in this league try them.

    A definite option for wednesday with Fletch out, but if he plays, Berba and Tevez will have to miss out on a start in what I believe will be another 4-3-3:

    VDS; JO'S Rio Vida Evra; Carrick Scholes Anderson; Park Ronaldo Rooney.

    I actually wouldn't have any complaints about that team, but, unfortunately, nor would Kia Joorabchian, who would be that much closer to a big fat check from Man City.

  • Comment number 22.

    Adrian McElholm. i think Anderson has been a revelation and a superb signing. he is a bundle of energy and rarely wastes possession.

  • Comment number 23.

    Hi Tim, great blogyet I am surprised at a lot of the comments concerning Anderson and the United midfield. Have some of you not realized that United defend as a team and that the defensive midfielder -epitomized by keano and butt- is something that does not exist with the current side? Carrick, Anderson, Scholes, Fletcher, Giggs, Gibson, Park, Rooney and even Nani track back in the midfield, as do tevez and berba up frontinjury plagued Haregreaves is also not solely a defensive player and his skill enables him to roam up and down the pitch. So please dont speak out against a particular player and his position as skill, caps and more importantly TROPHIES (4 already, people, if we count the charity shield) show that these players are not one dimensional but adaptive and work as a coherent unit!

  • Comment number 24.

    Anderson has done nothing to indicate he's going to be anything more than an ok squad player.

  • Comment number 25.

    everything has been said already apart from..the actual league he plays in. at youth level and in the portugese league at porto (where he was one of their star players i.e things centered around him) of course he could afford to play his natural game more further up field.
    it's a combination of things that has seen him being deployed as bit of a midfield destroyer.
    1) he came in because of injuries.
    2) his natural power, aggression and drive - which is why we are talking about him and how we DON'T in the same breath abou nani - i realllllly rate nani, someone who is much more naturally gifted and talented than someone like ashley young and antonio valencia. those two haven proven they are very good no doubt but they are 'overperforming' in my opinion, because they have that self motivation and awesome mentality.
    3) he chose to step up instead of being content with bench players e.g nani, sigh.
    4) quite frankly the premierleague does not favour playmakers like the way the spainish/italian leagues do.

    examples, rosicky, hleb, modric etc all get moved to the wings. excursions to this:
    1) anderson + mikel where they've got the natural power to adapt and play down the middle.
    2) or you've got no other choice and he is creatively your best player by miles - giovanni and hull city.

  • Comment number 26.

    _Nichollz_ :

    So the fact that he killed off Lampard, Gerrard and Fabregas in high circumstances means nothing? When Essien did it it was raved about for weeks, Anderson did it and not a whimper, and he's 20 years old. You clearly have never seen him and just look at his goals scored.

  • Comment number 27.

    What everybody seems to forget is that Ferguson sold Pique who has been Barcelonas best defender all season.

  • Comment number 28.

    anderson may be talented but he is a tad over-rated. with a decent partner in michael carrick/scholes anderson can be free to move forward at will

  • Comment number 29.


    I normally agree with your blogs; not this time, however. It's no coincidence that the majority of the responses raving about the abilities of Anderson are in fact responses from Manchester United fans.

    Anderson is average at best. His passing is largely hot and cold, he's not all that skilfully gifted, I am yet to see any evidence of this "burst of acceleration and sustained pace", he's not a great defensive operator and, remind me, how many has he scored at United again?

    To be honest, he comes across to me as being a little intimidated in the star studded midfield of United, a trait illustrated by his hesitance to shoot. He hurries his passes and quickly rids himself of possession, which is not a bad thing if the distribution is of a high standard, but this is not always the case with Anderson.

    For me, United's strength comes from their defensive spine, in particular their central defensive partnership. I feel that this carries the central midfield somewhat (I'm also fairly unsure about the abilities of Michael Carrick and the aging Paul Scholes).

    He's still young and the potential is definately there but one feels he has a long way to go to establish himself at United and in the Premier League.

  • Comment number 30.

    Anderson is currently a good player, not quite on the same level as Carrick yet, but in the next couple of years, once he's gained a little more experience, I believe he could turn into one of the best all-round midfielders in the world.
    Some people here claim he's overrated, but for a player who only turned 21 last month it would be foolish to expect the finished article. This is especially true considering his switch of position. As Tim said, all his life he'd been playing in the 'meias' role, but even in this position he only appeared 22 times at Porto due to a broken leg. He didn't have too much experience of playing at the highest level before joining United, yet immediately found himself asked to perform a different role to what he was used to in a league as unforgiving as the Premiership. It is only natural that he can't quite be regarded as "world-class" just yet, barely 2 seasons into his United career, but some of his performances definitely have been.
    Against Arsenal Fabregas has found himself dominated on more than one occasion, unable to play his regular game because of Anderson's prescence. The same could be said of his games against Chelsea and Liverpooland his effect on their midfields. The guy is a big-game player and more than worthy of a starting place in Rome.
    As for the future, his concentration probably needs some work, as he regularly plays raking 50-yard passes but sometimes lets himself down on the simple stuff near his own box. His shooting will improve once he stops panicking and trying to break the net when he gets a sight of goal. Given a few years, there is no doubt in my mind that we will see a much more complete, energetic, goalscoring midfielder and that he will remain at the heart of our team for many years to come.

  • Comment number 31.

    I am yet to see any evidence of this "burst of acceleration and sustained pace"

  • Comment number 32.

    I am fully convinced Anderson will score against Barcelona on Wednesday.

  • Comment number 33.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 34.

    anderson dominating fabregas?? i for one have not seen this! its all man united fans who are commenting on this article. any unbiased views please?!
    Like last seasons game when all united fans were raving about the job he did on fabregas in the 2-2 draw at the emirates....fabregas scored!
    Carrick, Hargreaves and Fletcher are above him in the pecking order and united

  • Comment number 35.

    In the 5 times fabregas and anderson have faced each other anderson has come out on top 4 times and quite convincingly so.

  • Comment number 36.

    31. At 00:59am on 26 May 2009, alz wrote:
    I am yet to see any evidence of this "burst of acceleration and sustained pace"


    Thanks for that, I'm currently at work so I can't access Youtube but will give it a watch when I get home.

  • Comment number 37.

    I'm afraid I'm not impressed with Anderson at all. He is too fond of taking the ball away from defenders by going sideways. He frequently ends up moving in triangles whilst the opposition file past him. With everybody marked up he will release a sideways ball.

    Ron Atkinson called Ray Wilkins "the crab" because he always passed the ball sideways, which I thought was a little cruel: I think it is true of Anderson. Strangle that Carrick doesn't seem overly worried about hitting long diagonal balls from defensive midfield positions.

  • Comment number 38.

    anderson is so wasteful, man utd worst centre mid by far, sure he's young but he's was expensive?....if arsenal or liverpool had payed that money eyebrows would be raised

  • Comment number 39.

    by far to me anderson was man utd worst player of the season. Name any players on the field which perform as badly or inconsistant as he does? Overrated. Highly and badly over rated player.

  • Comment number 40.

    Anderson before he went to United was a highly talented player, playing as an attacking midfield, normally centre. He has now mellowed down and looks a different player but has got worse. As Ferguson ruined Alan Smith's career, and it might be just about to happen to Anderson!
    Fergie should of just bought a centre mid to replace scholes. Not create one.

  • Comment number 41.

    I believe that Anderson is on the verge of breaking through and becoming a Utd regular. He's only played in 37 of Utd's 65 games this season. With a consistent run he'll take over from Scholes.

    Definitely better in a more offensive role which is his natural game.

  • Comment number 42.

    Anderson played brilliantly last season but hasn't quite hit the same form this season. He has huge potential and is certainly a better option then the likes of Park, Fletcher, Nani and unfortunately Scholes whose legs have gone.
    Expect much more when Hargreaves provides the anchor in midfield.

  • Comment number 43.

    39. At 03:57am on 26 May 2009, bacaraat wrote:

    by far to me anderson was man utd worst player of the season. Name any players on the field which perform as badly or inconsistant as he does? Overrated. Highly and badly over rated player.
    Nani? You obviously don't watch Man United's games...

  • Comment number 44.

    I think (hope) we'll see an even better player once he has scored a couple of goals. I don't think anybody expected his quick breakthrough last season (somewhat through necessity) but this season he hasn't moved on. He is still very young and I don't think I (or Fergy) knows our best team, such is the squad strength. I hope Hargreaves recovers but I agree with the earlier positive comments on Carrick & Fletcher. As the cliché says, it is a squad game now and it's no coincidence that ours is the best in the world, no the galaxy (take that Real!)

  • Comment number 45.

    Hi Tim,

    Would just like to ask your opinion on how close do you feel Internacional captain Pablo Guinazu is from getting called up into the Argentina squad?

    For those who don't know him he is a battling, tough tackling centre midfielder. He has never really made a name for himself in Europe but he must be considered one of the best player's in his position in South America.


  • Comment number 46.

    ah..u got me...nani...ok... both were also overrated...

  • Comment number 47.

    Okay but Anderson is definately not Man United's worst player.

  • Comment number 48.

    Not a Man Utd fan so don't watch all their games.. I've been impressed with Anderson everytime I've seen him.. great engine, power to handle challenges and pace... Should you worry about a midfielder scoring goals when his overall play in a team is contributing to the goals that could take his team to a possible quadruple of trophies???

    I wouldn't mind having these worries to 'worry' about for my team!!

    And another thing.. as previously stated.. he is just 21 years of age.

  • Comment number 49.

    How is Anderson possibly over-rated? Man Utd fans know that his attributes are physical presence, pace, passing ability, marking ability, work rate and eagerness to learn.

    We also understand that he needs to work on his attacking, his shooting and his aggression.

    If you think we over-hype him because we think he's going to be a future star, then you're wrong, because he really is, you can see that he's going to put the work in and that it will pay off for him.

    As for Nani, he's not over-rated, he did well last season, we thought he was great, he did badly this season, and we realise he's not up to scratch.

    If your going around saying he's "over-rated" then at least learn what it means or do some research...

  • Comment number 50.

    Anderson is great. Unfortunately Yaya Toure, Xavi and Iniesta are all and invidivually two levels above any of the ManU midfielders.

    Ferdinand is too slow for Messi. Vidic has to be at his best. Unless Ronaldo has the match of his life on Wednesday, Anderson will not be able to save ManU.

    Barcelona is an improved and more lethal version of Arsenal.

    The key to the Wednesday game is none of the players: Sir Alex is the master tactician who may win it for ManU.

  • Comment number 51.

    I think he has far more to offer than scholes, it's not the same type of player at all nor the same role. You will see next year United line up their new midfield

  • Comment number 52.

    40. At 04:54am on 26 May 2009, RyanHLUFC wrote:

    "As Ferguson ruined Alan Smith's career"

    ??? Explain please? Was SAF responsible for Smith breaking his leg? He has not performed to his previous standard since the injury, as witnessed by his poor performance levels since joining Newcastle. Smith always provided high energy and aggression, though passing was only fair, as was finishing. I wonder what Alan Smith would say himself about your comment, as in 23 years, very, very few ex Man Utd players who have played in a Ferguson team have anything bad to say about him.

  • Comment number 53.

    Anderson has definitely crept under the radar in terms of effectiveness. Comparing him to Scholes is an interesting argument. Scholes attacking ability - shooting & passing - was what has made him almost undroppable. Much to the regret of any new England Coach since his (arguably early) international retirement.

    However, since Anderson has come in, I for one thought Utd would miss Scholes more than they have. Which is credit to Anderson (along with Carrick & Fletcher I might add). Though the combined goals tally between Carrick, Anderson & Fletcher may not match Scholes in his prime, they often contribute massively.

    Good point to mention about the nerves of taking a penalty in the CL final last year. That is often forgotten. And to compare - Scholes missed in the FA Cup final v Arsenal.

    Though what sticks in the memory most for me is that Anderson & Nani both started 1st team footie for Utd at the same time & it is very clear to me, despite Nani hype, who the better signing was now.

    As for Barcelona on Wednesday, I would never thought I would say this, but I'd rather go for the 'persperation' of Rooney, Tevez, Anderson, Park & Fletcher than my old favourites Berby, Scholes & Giggs!

  • Comment number 54.

    Hi Tim,

    Interesting blog as usual. I'm just wondering, the Celtic manager's post is now available, would it interest any coaches in South America, and would (should) any of them interest a club like Celtic?

  • Comment number 55.

  • Comment number 56.

    The thing with Anderson I've always thought is he looks like an attacking midfielder who seems able to cover central midfield competently. However he never quite looks like he was made for the position.

    What's more is I can't quite see why United feel compelled to play him in this position. With Carrick they have a player who is a natural central midfielder, defensive qualities combined with an ability to get forward. This season Carrick has shown he can attack and get goals, the latter being more then Anderson can seemingly manage from his position. With Hargreaves presumably returning next season I can't quite see what role Anderson is meant to fill if Carrick is also to play in the side.

    Having said that though it's hard to see how United's formation works most of the time, Rooney on the left, Ronaldo up front with two world class forwards on the bench. None of this is to say whatever they're doing isn't working, results speak for themselves so there's not much room to criticise.

    But lets not forget that Fergie isn't always successful at redesigning players. He tried to do something similar with Alan Smith, turning him into a central midfielder, and it didn't work, despite years of presumably trying United have never managed to teach Scholes how to tackle. Fergie is obviously right much more than he's wrong but I do wonder if Anderson will ever hold down a starting place in the middle of the park.

  • Comment number 57.

    Spot on #5, why can't he shoot?! As soon as he does learn, or remember how, he will score a hatful. The first thing I noticed about him is that he gets into some really good positions, when Utd counter-attack he's right up there with Ronaldo and Rooney. The other bloke who gets into good positions but can't/won't shoot is Park.

    Tim Vickey has made some interesting points here, but I don't see that there is a clear seperation between attacking and defensive midfielders at Man Utd, the only Utd midfielder I can think of, who doesn't defend is Ronaldo.

  • Comment number 58.

    Anderson is clearly a class act and will continue to improve and grow as a player, adding goals will take the blinkers off some people who cant see him for what he is - an exceptional 21 year old.
    If Utd can keep hold of him he will become a legend, simple.

  • Comment number 59.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 60.

    good article. the supression of some of andersons attributes in his new role as centre mid is no more than has been asked of scholes,giggs,rooney and tevez, all of whom have had to modify their natural game for the greater good of the team. Part of the reason for utd's increasing dominance in european football over the last couple of seasons has been the near perfection of their new formation and style of play which Fergie has been tinkering with for nearly 10 years after he decided that Utd had become 'too predictable' in europe. The much maligned Veron was an early part of the tinkering which didn't work, simply because he was 5 years or so too early imho. Ironically, utd now have a midfield full of Veron clones with carrick,fletcher,anderson and the re-invented scholes and giggs playing a very similar style of play to Veron, excellent ball retention and passing with the ability to pressure the opposition with passing and possession but without to much box to box running.
    A player with the passing quality of anderson fits naturally into this system and if, like rooney,he has to sacrifice some of his attacking flair,he'll be a more complete player for it. Even if he was to play as a more traditional attacking midfielder in the mould of scholes' of ten years ago, he'd never be the same quality of player because he can't shoot. better to modify his game now, than watch 10 years of him blazeing the ball into row z.

  • Comment number 61.

    The fans on here sayingthe jury is out on Anderson clearly watch fotball with their eyes closed. His lack of scoring is a non-issue. When Claude Makelele the best defensive mildfielder the world has ever seen played he hardly scored. SAF knows his football so when he picks a player like Anderson he knows what he is doing compared to the bufoons on here who make stupid statements. I am not a mna utd fan and I hope they get stuffed on wednesday, but Anderson is a top class player and still only 20. United have a big squad and Anderson being only 20 has to be used wisely. Nani has not done too badly either. Remember Ronaldo first 3-4 years when he was doing all those tricks with no end product, look at him now. Anyway I repaet again, SAF sees these guys everyday so he knows what they can do.

  • Comment number 62.

    Outstanding midfielder at only 21. The thing that maybe holds him back most is that we continually switch formations and personnel in midfield. He is at his best alongside Fletcher and Carrick. Very Scholes like in that he is strong on the ball and makes accurate short passes with very little space and has the strength to maintain possession. He just needs to score the all important first goal in open play. Obviously blows hot and cold due to changing formations and his youth. I do think he will make a difference on Wednesday.

  • Comment number 63.

    "Anderson played brilliantly last season but hasn't quite hit the same form this season. He has huge potential and is certainly a better option then the likes of Park, Fletcher, Nani and unfortunately Scholes whose legs have gone.
    Expect much more when Hargreaves provides the anchor in midfield."

    If you watched the football this season I think you will see that Fletcher has been more effective than Hargreaves has ever been at least for us. Nani is struggling, true, and Park has but recently he has upped his game although still a little inconsistent.

  • Comment number 64.

    Never mind all this debate about how good Anderson is. Facts are Man U are best team in the world and a hell of a lot better than every other team in the Premier League. The scousers tried hard but will have more luck stealing a trophy than winning it and the other London clubs with the exception of Spurs are not worth the effort of typing their names. The only player outside Man U that would get in their current squad is Lamps who is far greater than that riot starting scouser Gerra who?

  • Comment number 65.

    oh and Tim...

    Write a better blog next time! maybe about how Rafa and a load of underworld scousers plotted to steal half the trophies man u have one over the past 18 years from the old trafford trophy room wearing balck curly wigs and shell suits

  • Comment number 66.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 67.

    I-8-scousers - lern to spell will you

  • Comment number 68.

    I think next season Anderson will become one of the top midfielders in the prem. Last season he looked a promising talent but has suffered this season with injury and never had a consistent run in the side.

    With a good pre season I think next season will be his year.

  • Comment number 69.

    What? Look Tim I love the historical Brazil stuff in this article, i could read that all day long with genuine interest, but the notion that Anderson has been moulded into some sort of celebrated defensive mid is plain wrong bordering on laughable.

    Anderson is neither here nor there in the bigger scheme of things and has NOT become some kind of defensive goliath over the course of his tenure at United neither has he hit the heights of his offensive potential. This is absurdly evident when considering his game statistics over the course of this season.

    Anderson has attempted 27 tackles in 936 minutes of premiership football. Of those 27 tackles only 16 were successful. On average you have to wait 58 mins from one Andersons tackle the next. Meanwhile the monster that is Lucas Levia has played an additional 5 hours premiership football over Anderson this season, but has won 59 tackles out of an attempted 79 and has an average tackle to minutes played ratio of 21. To rub salt into the wounds of this article, they both have an almost identical pass completion ratio of 83% !!!

    90% of Liverpool fans dont even rate Levia. So why do you deem young Anderson the business all of a sudden? Granted his role in football has been idiotically (as opposed to ingeniously) muddled due to the buff handedness of Sir Alex, but even allowing for that, it does not explain the lads inability to date to do anything of note to an exceedingly high standard given his cost, repute, and generally lording in this article.

    To date the only thing that really stands out about Anderson for me is his inclusion in a championship winning team. Not unlike the England managers of the past this accolade appears to cloud & impair the judgement of even the brightest football managers, pundits and journalists alike.

  • Comment number 70.

    Anderson is one of the most over-rated players united have. Not as good as carrick or hargreaves. 9 out of 10 tackles give away free-kicks, he gives the ball awat too much and he cant shoot. The da silva twins are much better brazilian prospects.

    Tim, I wouldnt put too much emphasis on being under-17 player of the tournament. I think Bruno Cheyrou and Florence sinama pongolle achieved that accolade along with being touted as the next zidane, etc, etc and look how they fared in the premiership. Dis-as-trous

  • Comment number 71.

    LFC Returns - of the 936 minutes of association football that Anderson has partaken of, how many have you viewed?

    By the way 83% of statistics are made up.

  • Comment number 72.

    Excellent observation i too feel his attacking abilities have been compromised, while Anderson is meant to replace Scholes one day, one cannot overlook his inability to shoot a worrying thing given that the surges that he makes from time to time usually put him in a shooting position and he usually fails toev4en hit the target

  • Comment number 73.

    If he weren't in the red shirt and played like he does he'd be considered a cheat and a thug. Same goes for many of their players. Don't say anything against them though BBC, Taggart might instruct his players to stop talking to you too.

  • Comment number 74.

    Barcelona's strengths lie in their midfield and attack, which is why players like Anderson and Park are needed to close their midfield down and deny them the opportunity to dictate, coupled with Park and Rooney's work ethic in getting back to support the full backs. I believe the starting line up will be:

    EVS, JO'S, Ferdinand, Vidic, Evra, Anderson, Carrick, Giggs, Park, Ronaldo, Rooney. Subs to include Tevez, Berbatov, Scholes, Evans, and believe it or not, Wes Brown.

  • Comment number 75.

    I'm surprised at some of the indifferent comments from Utd fans... Anderson is just the kind of player I love to see in the prem, he loves possession, doesn't dive or suffer from extreme self-indulgence like two Portuguese chaps round your way, he has grace which is one of the few areas that the likes of Rooney and Tevez lack and he puts in an honest shift.

    The approach taken by player and coaching staff alike seems to be that he is under an apprenticeship at the moment, he is clearly sitting back and learning from Scholes and Giggs and performs far better when one or both of those are on the pitch. He enjoys football, which is something as a fan I can get enthused about, don't bemoan his lack of goals as a downside, you have a gem in Anderson.

  • Comment number 76.

    #74 I think you are right - United were always going to park the bus because they know if they go toe-to-toe with a superior passing team like Barca they'll get ripped to pieces. Pathetic. They'd probably take pens now like their last glorious win when they were outplayed.

  • Comment number 77.

    _nichollz_ you really must checkout the clip posted by carefreecoors you would change your mind

  • Comment number 78.

    LFC returns, I really rate Lucas too, he has some terrible games but in the second leg against chelsea he really won me round, another top talent, but one who needs to take responsibility next season and look to be more consistent.

  • Comment number 79.


    Hi mate, the statistic that I have used are most definitely NOT made up and you can confirm this with any statistical vehicle you prefer (including Uniteds own)

    I have watched Anderson in a number of game but on no more than 5 occasion mostly on TV and to be honest, my stats are completely indicative of my opinion of him at the time.

    He is a glorified Lucas, albeit clearly befuddled by his role, as opposed to Lucus who is plain befuddled by nature. However when Lucas does get it right he can stick the boot in, break up play, build play and score goals.

    Anderson has scored exactly NOUGHT this season, and his defensive contribution is average.

    I tuned into the hype when he moved from Brazil to Porto and from what little I saw of him then I was quaking in my boots when the deal was announced and he moved to United when Sir Alex proudly proclaiming hed found the long term Paul Scholes replacement.

    As a Manchester United rival we dont need another Paul Schole anywhere near the Man United 1st team thank you very much. Alas my fear to date was unjustified and I sit easy whenever I see his name on the team sheet against us.

  • Comment number 80.

    no. he is just a poor poor player and will never be close to scholes. his passing is distinctly average, his dribbling is haphazard and regularly fruitless and his goal scoring ability is laughable. 0 in 70+ games

  • Comment number 81.

    "27. At 11:38pm on 25 May 2009, barcelonatangerine wrote:
    What everybody seems to forget is that Ferguson sold Pique who has been Barcelonas best defender all season."


    What you seem to forget is Ferguson rates Johnny Evans a lot more highly than he did Pique and i'd say he's been justified in selling Pique.

  • Comment number 82.

    (76) - it's precisely the need to match Barcelona's passing skills that I'm hoping for the team that I've mentioned. Are you saying that Rooney, Ronaldo, Park, Giggs, Carrick and Anderson can't pass? As well as stopping Barcelona from playing their game in midfield, we'll need to defend in numbers but with the ability to break quickly from the back with Evra and O'Shea also breaking forward also, knowing that they have players go can get back quickly i.e. Rooney and Park. The style of both teams makes me think it's going to be frenetic for the first 20 minutes or so, with a lot of counter attacking from both sides. Certainly in the last 20-30 minutes, United need to up the pace even more. Scholes doesn't have the energy levels to go a full 90 minutes in this type of match, but if United go behind, he's precisely the kind of player to bring on in midfield to replace Giggs, with Tevez on for Anderson.

  • Comment number 83.

    yes he hasn't got a goal yet, and his shooting hasn't been brilliant, but our central midfield set up doesn't facilitate easy goals from the midfield. The reason anderson has been made into more of a defensive mid is to fit into the setup imo.

    a combination of things in our tactics inhibit us from having goal scoring midfielders.

    Firstly the evolution of the fullback role, which is used more for attacking than previous years; this means the central midfield need to be more controlled in their runs forward, often needing to sit deeper to cover defensively. This is especially important in our team with evra and rafael...and will be the same when fabio plays.

    secondly the ronaldo role. He's not an orthodox winger as such (tho has been more this season), generally joining the attack and free of defensive responsibilities. Tactically you want him to retain his energy for the opposition half, and offer an avenue for the quick counter. not tracking back too far.
    As such again the central midfield have to sit deeper and cover.

    We have better targets to hit from corners in ronaldo, vidic, rio; all excellent in the air.

    Lastly we don't play with a makelele/masherano style DM which many of the teams with regular midfield scorers often utilise.

    diarra/diarra - sneijder
    makelele of old/essien/mikel - lampard
    mascherano - gerrard
    toure - iniesta

    Most of the teams that play with goalscoring midfielders currently play 1 up top, whereas we generally play with 2 (apart from in europe).

    The tactics of our midfield is generally cover & protection for the defence, aiming to control possession, win it back as soon as the opposition breaks, offer inside passing options to the fullbacks, and feed the forward players/width with through balls. they require a more disciplined role for the midfield; that's the argument why anderson was taught to play deeper imo. At present, our tactics aren't worked around having an attacking midfield.

    Our midfielders do push up, but their role requires them to rarely burst past the last defender or into the box, and so goalwise would generally rely on longshots from outside. They don't have the freedom of a Gerrard for example who can attempt driving runs with the ball knowing he has mascherano & alonso to cover if he loses it.

    Anderson hasn't scored in two years, but hardly any of our midfield do at present for the reasons outlined above. Scholes is one of the best finishers and long shot specialists in the world, but in the time anderson has been here scholes has only scored 5. carrick 6, fletcher 5, hargreaves 2. Most were either longshots from outside the box, or freekicks in hargreaves case.

    Give the lad time & he can be a huge player for us. He doesn't need goals to be that, as we play on percentages that if we control the midfield the forwards will get enough oppurtunities to stick some away.

  • Comment number 84.


    It's not a case of being able to pass, but like it or not Barcelona are the finest passing machine in Football anywhere on earth.

    Yes Rooney, Ronaldo, Park, Giggs, Carrick and Anderson can "pass the ball" in and around West Brom all day long, but against Barcelona? LOL you've got great jokes.

    Barcelona will be with out 2rd's of their 1st choice 11, even so lose the ball to them in your half and United will be carved up like a kipper :-P

  • Comment number 85.

    What a load of b****cks this blog is! Anderson is an attacking midfielder, and an average holding player that fergie has turned him into. He wastes possesion, is an average passer (much like the converted midfielder Alan Smith) and is only there to take up space, much like Darren Fletcher who is not every good either. But at United there is always one or two players in the squad that are technically inferior to the rest, thats fergies game! He plays those players on purpose and because they are inferior they have to over compensate and this makes them look 'brilliant' in the eyes of many britons (bbc and sky to mention but a few) when really they are there just to make a mess of the midfield and kick people. Anderson is an average player who would NEVER make the 1st team of ANY top four in England bar united when they need someone to break up the midfield. Have u EVER seen him play in a 4-4-2 at united against a top team?? Nope! And u never will, cuz Fergie knows he cant hack it alone, you will only ever see him when they are playing 4-5-1. And when the whole squad is fit u wont see him in the starting line-up ever. Not bad for someone u have to play 20 mil for? He's an ex attacking midfielder that hasn't even scored a league goal in TWO seasons!! pathetic! That money should have been spent on Stephan Ireland, he's 10 times the player Anderson is!

  • Comment number 86.


    really nice post, if i were naive i'd pin my hat on your break down of why Anderson is average at best ;-)

  • Comment number 87.

    _LFC_returns (but when????)

    Sorry, I must have been watching historical video rather than the 2 live games that were the CL SF's. Remember, Arsenal were another team hyped for their 'beautiful' passing game'. United didn't give them a chance, and THAT'S A FACT!

  • Comment number 88.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 89.

    Good luck to Pique he's going to need it, to keep the defence together with the injuries and suspensions Barca have.

  • Comment number 90.

    Alot of Anderson's inability to score is that when he gets within 20-25 yards of goals he almost always trys to power it with his side foot instead of putting his laces through it, which most of the time results in him standing the ball up over the cross bar, still a brilliant player as he showed this season most when he was let off his leash and allowed to support the front players.

    With any luck he's saving his first goal for a fitting stage...CL Final?

  • Comment number 91.

    Yeah Anderson is overrated. Just look at the trophies that he and his team have won!

    Compare that to Lampard, Gerrard, Fabregas, Barry etc etc.

    I agree that he isn't the 'finished article' but nor he should be at his age. What was Carrick doing at his age? Now look at him, brilliant and no mistake.

  • Comment number 92.

    A pretty average member of United's squad at the moment.

  • Comment number 93.

  • Comment number 94.

    Battosai.....funny stuff.

    Now go back to the weeping corner with whichever team you support.

    "But at United there is always one or two players in the squad that are technically inferior to the rest"
    You should be writing fiction, not about football.

    Have you even seen Anderson or Fletcher play? I mean actually see them play, not in the 1 or 2 game in which united beat your team.

    Fact is United were champions last year & are champions against this year. Since they did that playing the so called "weak player" in midfield, it speaks volumes about how pathetic the quality of the team you support must be, that they couldn't even give United a real challenge for the title.

    As for Anderson, I can honestly say he is a brilliant talent & I see him taking over from Scholes in the near future. Even Fergie says he see Anderson as Scholes natural successor. He is insanely strong, nice defensive abilities, can tackle, has a nice burst of speed, good ball control & dribbling abilities & has the ability to make killer defense splitting passes. Only thing lacking is that 1st goal which will open the floodgates as far as I am concerned.

    You have a few pool & other BPL club fans who watch Anderson in 1 or 2 games against their teams, read some stats & think they know everything there is to know about him. Honestly its laughable.

    Anderson came back when man utd were struggling for form & has been a calming influence on the midfield. Yes his passing has been off in a few games, however he just came back from injury.
    His work ethic has been brilliant & has shit down the oppositions midfield time & time again.

    Simple example - Watch the 2 Arsenal game. I was watching it with Arsenal fans & Anderson was right there everytime Cesc or any other Arsenal midfielder tried to attack.
    Result was Arsenal was so throughly outplayed that they rarely looked like they were in the same league as Man utd. Even the Arsenal fans were praising Andersons performance.
    Same team a week or 2 later in the BPL & Anderson is not in the starting 11. Arsenal look like a totally different team, more confident in attack & more composed.
    Part of that is United decision to play for a safe draw, part because Anderson wasn't around to muscle Cesc & company off the ball in midfield.

  • Comment number 95.


    Perhaps you're not up on current affairs? but this Arsenal team is anything but the beautiful passing team of old. The current Arsenal team can walk the walk but they have little substance at present.

    When the might of United played a beautiful Arsenal teams of old they were forced (at home) to kick Arsenal's players 40ft up into the air and mutter things like "der welcome to the premiership ha ha" as the said Arsenal player crashed to the gound on their necks.

    That is the extent of United when faced with a passing team in full flow and in full form. Alas Barcelona won't be due to injury and suspension, even so they will pass you lot off the park for large spells of the game, mean while United WILL use thier speed on the break and hoof ball over the top to try and expose Barcelona's shocking defence.

    That much is certain.

  • Comment number 96.

    As an attacking midfielder, you should provide your team with at least 10 goals a season, wheather you set them up or score them yourself, look at Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard or even Danny Murphy. Anderson will be taught a lesson tommorow night no matter who pep gaurdiola picks, whether it be Yaya toure, iniesta, busquets or xavi. Not only do i not rate Anderson as a player , i think he has a complete lack of respect towards other players for example in the champions league final last year his dancing infront of the chelsea players who are all more talented players was disgraceful . after all he didnt even play, to be fair he scored a penalty , well done. your first goal in a united shirt after a 20 million price tag. i could buy you five better centre midfielders, could even dip into the championship.

    my prediction tomorrow night is Barca to win one nill, as a chelsea fan i have better things to do than watch it........mite cut the grass

  • Comment number 97.

    lovely blog i think. i actually prefer anderson playing in the midfield, if only he can keep possession. hehas that bad trait of losing the ball and then lunging into bookable tacles. however, i can see Man U wining this comfortably, not even the nervy 1-0 score!

    could anyone tell me how i can see the rest of the blogs? its making me get a migraine just searching for them. thanx!

  • Comment number 98.


    Think perhaps 'hoofing a ball over the top' is doing an injustice to the long range and incisive passing skills of (amongst others) Carrick, Giggs and Rooney. Probably the most significant absentees from Barcelona have been caused through suspension. Without going off topic to review both theirs and Fletcher's previous yellow cards, Barcelona should have sufficient depth of quality in their squad for it not to be of major consequence. Barcelona have only been allowed to play their passing game against other Spanish opposition in La Liga. A lot of mention has been made about their win against Real Madrid, but this was the same Real Madrid that lost heavily to Liverpool at Anfield, and who are far from being as competitive as they used to be.

  • Comment number 99.

    hopefully andersons fee will seem like a bargain ater the passage of some time.

    i recall a young portuguese winger united signed for £12m who was a little rough around the edges. He's doing ok these days.

    He needs time to develop and grow.

    Cant believe some liverpool fans are questioning the price when Robbie Keane barely got 6 months to justify his huge fee. He only needed time and Rafa wouldnt let him have it.

    Thank goodness Fergie is patient. Andy Cole anyone?

  • Comment number 100.

    Someone asked for the opinion of a neutral. Here is mine: I wholeheartedly agree with the following post:

    'Anderson is one of the most over-rated players united have. Not as good as carrick or hargreaves. 9 out of 10 tackles give away free-kicks, he gives the ball awat too much and he cant shoot. The da silva twins are much better brazilian prospects'.

    I would add that it's not just that he hasn't scored; he's taken the worst shots, repeatedly, that I've ever seen, just edging Lampard's performance in the last World Cup!!

    How bad is he? He couldn't even play holding midfielder for Arsenal! :o)


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