Anderson Luís de Abreu Oliveira has more than a touch of an enigma about him. Signed for more than £17 million two seasons ago, the Brazilian youngster burst onto the scene with standout performances against luminaries such as Steven Gerrard and Cesc Fabregas in his opening campaign. The player’s assured touch, all-action style and flowing braided hair marked the former Porto player out as a star of the future. But it was a dream that has turned sour for the Porto Alegre-born midfielder, as his off the field lifestyle, attitude and on-pitch form have conspired to halt the player’s development at Old Trafford.
It shouldn’t have come to this. Anderson has long been though of as one of the best Brazilian youngsters of his generation; a future number 10 and ‘meia’ apparent to Ronaldinho in the national side. That the two has each played for Gremio and share a taste for women and a party lifestyle is about as far as the analogy has stretched though. On the pitch Anderson suffered what is generously described as a ‘difficult second season’ – his form and opportunities nosedived as injuries disrupted the campaign. Returning to the team and to some semblance of form towards the end of last season, Anderson made the Champions League final side only to see the game pass him by as Barcelona dominated.
In many ways this campaign was set to be Anderson’s breakthrough season. Or a last chance to shine. In professional football they are two sides of the same coin. With Paul Scholes’ and Ryan Giggs’ opportunities set to diminish as age set in, it was Anderson that Ferguson was to rely on to provide both muscle and flair through central midfield. With the departure of Anderson’s close friend Cristiano Ronaldo to Real Madrid, Sir Alex Ferguson talked up the Brazilian’s chances of taking on the mantle of midfield goalscorer. That he has never scored a competitive goal for United was laid aside in the hope of a brighter future.
But Anderson was left out of the team to play Chelsea in the Community Shield at Wembley and the visit to the DW Stadium for last weekend’s match against Wigan Athletic. The hour he played against Burnley at Turf Moor last week was hardly an auspicious start to the midfielder’s season.
Off the field Anderson has long held a reputation for his party lifestyle; once accused by The Sun of taking part in a poolside orgy in which five prostitutes were ordered to Ronaldo’s Cheshire home. Indeed, Anderson was warned by then assistant manager Carlos Quieroz to curb the excesses of drink and late nights. Ferguson is famously intolerant of his players’ nocturnal habits – often having staff follow the team ‘off duty’. As a youngster Ryan Giggs’ is said to have opened the door to his house, expecting fellow party-goers, only to find an enraged Ferguson waiting on the doorstep.
However, it is the player’s apparent reaction to his omission from the Community Shield team that has plunged his Old Trafford future into serious peril. Better players than Anderson have found to their cost that questioning Ferguson’s decisions leads only to the door marked exit. Indeed, Ferguson is believed to have told the player that he is welcome to leave the club if he cannot accept being left out of the side.
“I believed that I would play in the Community Shield but that is forgotten now,” Anderson told the Daily Mail. “I thought that, without Cristiano Ronaldo around, I could play more and that has been my challenge from pre-season onwards. But the coach decides the teams and to discuss this with him is foolish because he is the chief. I do not want to leave United. No.”
“Sir Alex Ferguson has demanded a bigger effort from me and I accept that. Because to get into this United team is very complicated and difficult for any player.”
With that perhaps the penny has dropped. It had better. Failure this time, and Anderson will surely be shown the door come next summer, with Barcelona and Inter Milan waiting in the wings.