The Obituary Column: Farewell, Anderson (2007-14)

Michael Steele

Saying goodbye to one of the greatest enigmas of the perennial Manchester United midfield problem as he heads to Fiorentina.

Anderson has been a dead man waddling for some time now, so this is not a particularly surprising obituary, but he's no Mandela, or Thatcher, or Neil Warnock where we've already imagined and come to terms with the big day. Anderson, instead, is not important enough for a pre-write. But at least when we look back on his career in retrospect, you can at least trust the authenticity of the timestamp.

Anderson Luis de Abreu Oliveira managed to make a career out of not really playing very much at all. When he got decent runs, he was by the appallingly low standards of his midfield colleagues an acceptable option for the club. But he also revealed his astonishing limitations - lethargic, absurdly one-footed, unable to score goals, and the pre-Phil Jones master of the driving, menacing run to the edge of the area before freezing up and either blazing well over the bar or passing to an opposition defender.

It takes quite some doing to find a way to be bad in that United midfield, after all. You can't just be crap, because to be in United's midfield, you have to have previous promise. At one time, you must have been thought of as a great player or prospect, or at least a decent guy who didn't have long left to run on his contract and Owen Hargreaves coming back will be like a new signing anyway. You have to be terrible in your own special way, and Anderson was the most special of all.

Anderson was a bizarre player because he was completely devoid of all strengths and weaknesses. Not in the Jake Livermore/Jack Collison mould, but somehow ending up the exact opposite of an identikit midfield clone. Anderson was good at everything - his shooting technique, his passing, his vision, his running, his strength, his pace - but he was simultaneously bad at all of them because he couldn't find the right time to do them or used them in some ineffective manner. Only his inability to get in the team for more than a couple of games at a time prevented him from being the most frustrating player United ever had in the period.

Of the Portugophone contingent present at United in the period, the Da Silva twins had yet to break into the side and so Anderson was considered the more likeable. As one of his friends contemplates an exit from the club, and his other wins the Ballon d'Or the same day as his move, we should cast our mind back to those heady days. When an alleged prostitute scandal concerning the three elders appeared in the English press, Anderson was regarded as the more sensitive lover of the three.

The departure is two pieces of good news for United: firstly, the departure of an increasingly disliked player, and secondly, the prospect that if United are selling a midfielder they must also be buying one. You have to be pretty spectacularly ineffective to leave Manchester United as a midfielder in January 2014 and be cheered out of the door, but Anderson just keeps on setting records.

Intriguingly, there's talk that his replacement could well be Ever Banega. A man who has managed to run himself over with his own car, been caught masturbating on webcam, and has reportedly turned up for training drunk. If both he and Anderson are mavericks, and Anderson was precisely the kind of lunatic that they didn't need, then perhaps Banega will turn out to be some sort of saviour.

And really, that was Anderson's problem. He had the spirit of George Best or Ronaldinho trapped inside the footballing ability of Chris Eagles. He was the wrong kind of hedonist, a misplaced maverick, and a man out of time. But he still couldn't get in a midfield ahead of Tom Cleverley, and for that crime, there can be no mercy.

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