The Busby Babe continues with the eighth installment of our 2012-13 Manchester United player reviews. Next up is midfielder Anderson.
I'm going to be dividing each of the player reviews into three categories: 'what was expected' will be a brief and general explanation of what the expectations were for the player prior to the season's start, 'what we got' will typically be the section with the most depth as this will be the heart of the review, and 'what's next?' will be an examination of the player's future at United.
What was expected
Anderson arrived at Old Trafford in the summer of 2007 as a 19-year-old with lots of promise. His United career, though, has been a mixed bag. He's flashed his talent at times, and in big moments too, but he's rarely ever been able to put it all together for longer than a few months at a time -- whether that be because of injury,
being fat fitness issues, or inconsistent form. Ahead of this season, due to his up-and-down past, no one was (reasonably) counting on Ando to establish himself as first-choice, despite the opportunity in United's relatively weak central-midfield. Anything more than 30+ appearances -- assuming he was decent in most of them -- would be a pleasant and welcomed surprise. Personally, I was looking forward to his Instagram more than anything else.
What we got
* GS: games started (substituted appearances),G = goals scored, A = assists, Avg P = average passes per game, Pass % = passing accuracy percentage,FT % = final third passing accuracy percentage, KP = chances created per game, LB = accurate long balls per game, C% = accurate long ball percentage, DRB = successful dribbles per game, TKL = tackles per game, INT = interceptions per game
Unsurprising to anyone, it was another stop-start campaign for Anderson. Overall, he made 26 appearances with only 17 of those being starts (and with only 12 of those starts being in either the Premier League or UEFA Champions League).
The Brazilian hardly featured in the early months of the season but he did begin to provide a spark late in November. In a league match against Queens Park Rangers, Ando came off the bench and provided an assist for a key Javier Hernandez (Chicharito) goal. After that match, I proposed that Sir Alex Ferguson should give him a run of games because he provided a unique dynanism and drive to the United midfield. This was the reasoning:
"When Anderson came on in the 59th minute, he provided instant drive and this became a way to penetrate the away side's defenses. What the Brazilian did was actually quite simple, but he's the only player on the squad that can provide this from the engine room: he collected the ball from the center-backs and he always looked to go forward -- whether it be by driving forward with dribbles or by playing quick passes in combination with other United players as he moved up the pitch (pass forward, follow that pass, and then do it again). An obvious example of Anderson's effective vertical play occurred during United's third goal versus QPR: he picked up the ball in his own-half from Rio Ferdinand, he then surged past two Rangers' players (a forward and a central-midfielder) during a 35-yard run with the ball before a center-back engaged him and from here, he beautifully slipped a pass between two defenders (QPR's right-back and other center-back) into the box for Javier Hernandez's clinical finish."
To the delight of many United fans at that time, Ando was rewarded with two successive starts. He performed well in a 1-0 league defeat of West Ham United and he then scored United's opening goal against Reading in a wild 4-3 victory. However, just as he was beginning to find his form again, the midfielder was forced off at the Madejski Stadium due to an injured hamstring. After that, the Brazilian hardly made a meaningful impact for the remainder of the season. Essentially, these events were a microcosm of Ando's career at United.
Ando's future at United is certainly up in the air. It's hard to know, though, just how the newly-appointed David Moyes rates the (sometimes) dynamic midfielder. He still is only 25-years-old and he currently has two years remaining on his contract. Therefore, it probably would be in United's best interest to make a decision on the Brazilian's United future this summer. If they decide he's not part of Moyes' long-term plans, then he should be sold during the summer since his sell-on value will never be higher. The recent speculation is that he will be sold to a Portuguese side, possibly to FC Porto, his old club.
United have not purchased a central-midfielder since they bought Anderson and Owen Hargreaves in the summer of 2007. In addition, Tom Cleverley is the only one they've brought through the youth academy since that time. Therefore, with a new manager in place, this might be the perfect time to refresh the midfield - and that perhaps means Ando leaving Old Trafford. If he does stay, he's likely to never be more than just a squad player.