Are Anderson's Good Performances Just A Fluke?

Despite securing three points and moving top of the table in the Champions League group, there was plenty to be frustrated about by United’s performance Wednesday, perhaps nothing more so than Anderson’s miserable performance.

There is no doubt that Anderson is capable of moments of brilliance. At the start of this season, partnered with Tom Cleverley in the midfield, Anderson looked class. He was creating chances and even scored a rare goal. Then Kevin Davies put Cleverley on the sidelines for awhile and Anderson’s form dropped off. Actually, it didn’t just drop off; it plummeted, culminating in last night’s shocking display against Otelul Galati. It got me thinking that maybe Anderson’s bad form wasn’t just an occasional fluke that he would snap out of. Maybe his quality performances were the fluke. The possibility that Anderson was nothing more than an average player who occasionally had an outstanding run of form started to sink in.

So I thought back on Anderson’s time at United, all the way back to when I first heard his name, looking for an answer.

I was just stepping off a plane at London Heathrow when I first heard the news about Anderson and Nani back in 2007. As I walked out of the airport to catch a taxi, I grabbed a copy of The Sun to read about United’s two new signings. I have no idea why, but from the very beginning, before even seeing him play, I found myself already liking Anderson. Maybe it was the “cool” factor. He had the awesome dreadlocks and was being hailed as “the next Ronaldinho” by the media. YouTube videos showed he was an enthralling attacking talent, running at defenders with an abundance of flair and scoring. He appeared to be... well, Brazilian. It was hard not to be excited.

Too bad that’s not the player we got. Despite having a brilliant first season, Anderson’s role was being redefined at United. No, that’s not right. He did not have a defined role at United. Sometimes he played deep, as a makeshift enforcer. Other times he would be played further forward. He was essentially used as a midfield utility man, playing whatever role was needed, and he seemed versatile enough to do any job. It became increasingly clear that he wasn’t going to be used as an attacking midfielder like he had been at FC Porto.

Nevertheless, Anderson actually had a good season when you think about it. That first season is when he took the ever popular dump on Cesc Fabregas, providing us with something to quite literally chant about. Anderson also played a sizeable role in the Premier League, making 24 league appearances in a squad that became champions. And, of course, in the Champions League Final he scored a crucial penalty in the shootout against Chelsea as United went on to become champions of Europe. That is the type of debut season that players dream of.

Then came the sophomore slump. That’s not to say Anderson was bad, but he wasn’t particularly good either, and he was not building off the performances of his debut season. His third season was not much better. It was like he had peaked before he even celebrated his 21st birthday. While he was an exciting young player in his first season and did a good job, there was plenty of room for improvement, and he just wasn’t improving. Anderson certainly hadn’t been helped by injuries along the way, and he was in and out of the team as a result. That may have hindered his development, and I continued to believe one good run in the team was all he needed to find consistency. Ultimately, Anderson was more of an average player with the occasional good game than a good player with the occasional poor game.
As fans began to call for an exit, I was one who continued to support Anderson, believing that he would fulfill his potential and become the answer for the growing problem in midfield. It was that damn hair and the fact that he was always smiling; Anderson was just so cool, I couldn’t bring myself to not support the guy.

In the build up to his fourth season, Anderson was involved in that infamous car crash in Portugal. The accident occurred at 7am after leaving a nightclub. It was another setback on his return from an injury the previous season, and I began to question his commitment to the club. Out all night just weeks before the season when he should have been focused on a comeback from injury. I was starting to hope that the “next Ronaldinho” tag that had failed to be fulfilled on the pitch wouldn’t be fulfilled off it.

And then my faith started to pay off. Once Anderson made his return from injury he put together a good run of games and was soon awarded a brand new deal. It looked like Anderson would have a future at United after all. Then he faded again and went quiet for a few months. Toward the end of the season he experienced another resurgence, scoring twice against Schalke in the Champions League and once against Blackpool in the Premier League. Now he was adding goals to his game, something that had eluded him for so long. But still, yet again, Anderson was average for most of the season with a few outstanding performances.

That brings us to this season, and arguably the worst performance in his time at Old Trafford. Anderson was giving away possession and creating very little. This was against a team I hadn’t even heard of until they were drawn in our group. What went wrong last night? Or was there nothing wrong, and that is just Anderson’s standard performance?

Going back on that little adventure through time, it becomes harder to deny the fact that Anderson may just be a decent player and that his dazzling performances are the abnormalities. I am not ready just yet to give up on him, but time is running out. For many it already has. Unless Anderson can play consistently at that exceptional level we’ve occasionally seen him achieve, then it may be time to admit that Anderson is nothing more than average and part ways. I hope that day will not come, but it is becoming a more realistic possibility with every game.

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