An early examination of Anderson | can he seize the opportunity?

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - AUGUST 22: Anderson of Manchester United celebrates scoring his side's second goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur at Old Trafford on August 22, 2011 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

When Anderson signed for Manchester United in the summer of 2007 from FC Porto for a reported fee of £17 million, expectations were certainly high. While he has shown flashes of brilliance, both in his technical ability and industry, he has failed to provide the consistent performances that would justify the (perhaps unfair) hype of his signing. Despite this though, Anderson has earned himself the start in the center of the park for United in their first two league matches and performed quite admirably.

During the past campaign, Anderson missed much of it due to injury and also to simply not being be chosen to feature on many occasions. However, the Brazilian midfielder became a contributing squad player for the run-in. In United's 2nd leg Champions League semi-final tie versus Schalke '04, he doubled his United career scoring account by bagging a brace. In his next match, he added to that account by scoring again versus Blackpool in the season finale. His form improved by the Spring and there were signs that Anderson was once again ready to contribute to the club. Here are his statistics from last season, in both league and in Europe, via Opta:

Anderson

(2010-11)

App

Goals

Asst

Key Pass/Gm

Avg Pass/Gm

Pass Acc %

Tackle per gm

Interception per gm

PREM

14(4)

1

2

0.8

38.0

83%

1.8

1.1

UCL

4(2)

3

0

1.3

36.0

83%

1.5

1.3

Here are Ando's statistics from this season's first two Premier League matches, this time from Guardian chalkboards, powered by Opta:

Anderson

(2011-12)

App

Goals

Asst

Key Passes

Passes completed

Pass Acc %

Tackles

Interceptions

WBA

1

0

0

1

55

93%

5

1

Spurs

1

1

0

1

44

88%

5

6

Whether United play with two or three central midfielders, their basic tactical focus under manager Sir Alex Ferguson has always been to get the ball out wide to the wingers or to a central player between the lines - this is traditionally the areas in attack that have provided their creative force. With the exception of the brilliant Paul Scholes, United's central midfielders simply have been asked to be controlled playmakers that dictate the pattern of a game. United's registas do not typically accumulate passing totals in a game that near 100.

A quick examination of Anderson's 2010-11 statistics hints at a player that was quite useful when selected. For a central midfielder, a pass completion rate of 85% or better is considered to be exceptional. 83% from Ando, in both major competitions for United last season, is very solid. Providing 2 or more key passes per game is typical from incisive playmakers and for most sides, this is often seen from creative players that reside in the center. For United though, that number was approached or was close to it by only Wayne Rooney, who played between the lines for much of last season, and their wingers. Ando, in mostly a box-to-box role, provided in the region of 1 for the season. His average passes per game were slightly low but his defensive reputation was held intact by adequate defensive numbers.

In the early part of the current campaign, Ando has once again made two starts in a box-to-box role while United played a 4-4-2 sort of shape in both matches. This time though, his performances have been more than adequate - they have been quite impressive.

He has been a force in breaking up attacks in the center of the park and quickly igniting counter attacks going forward. His display last night versus Tottenham Hotspur, one in which he made 5 tackles and 6 interceptions showed both tough tackling and positional awareness.

While his key passes per game still remains at just two in two matches, his average passes per match has rose to 50 at a brilliant 91% accuracy rate. He is also doing well in both getting forward with marauding dribbling when the space is available and also making delayed runs into the box when United are attacking. The latter was rewarded versus Spurs when Danny Welbeck brilliantly played a backheel into unoccupied space near goal - which Ando smartly surged into to clinically finish. He is beginning to show more of an end product. His accurate distribution, which is often quick one-touch passing, along with his pace, has contributed greatly to United's fast and fluid play in early portion of the season.

 by Guardian Chalkboards

As the season progresses, Anderson will continually face competition from the likes of Tom Cleverley, Michael Carrick, Ryan Giggs, Darren Fletcher, and a possible last minute signing in the current transfer window for selection in the central midfield. However, for the time being, Ando is first-choice and he is in fine form. Can he continue to improve while finally providing consistency? Can he grow from a mere squad player on a trophy-laden side to a player that influences that haul of trophies? He is still only 23 years and an opportunity seems to be there for him once again. Can he seize it?

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