When Anderson first joined United, I was expected a flair player, who’d be great on the attack, but whose work rate may suffer. He was billed as the replacement for Paul Scholes, which was incredibly exciting, considering the thought of finding someone to fill Scholes’ shoes should have been a worry for all United fans over the past five years or so.
Then we saw him play and I didn’t see a Paul Scholes replica (for one, Scholes is naturally gifted at striking the ball, something we’ve still yet to see many signs of encouragement where Anderson) is concerned, but someone more similar to Roy Keane. He was gutsy and got stuck in, chasing the ball over the park and throwing his weight around. He got the better of both Cesc Fabregas and Steven Gerrard, by which point he had already caught the attention of our fans and had become very popular.
It was only as last season continued that we saw more of the Scholesy elements in the lad, with his long range passing coming in to play. No one can pass the ball like Paul Scholes, so the idea of him getting too old to play before finding a half decent fill in was scary. Whilst Anderson is still no Scholes, he’s getting closer, which is more than comforting when you consider he’s only 20-years-old and played Premiership football for a season!
When United beat Aston Villa 4-0, Rooney had time to applaud a 50-yard inch perfect ball before it reached his feet, Anderson the one to deliver.
The Times wrote: In the closing stages of this master-class, as the rain lashed down on Old Trafford and thousands of spectators opted to make an early getaway, something remarkable happened. Anderson, Manchester United’s wonderfully talented Brazilian substitute, struck one of his characteristic cross-field passes and, far away on the right-hand touchline, Wayne Rooney applauded as the ball flew 50 yards towards his right boot, with which he brought it down, before proceeding goalwards.
Anderson’s compatriot, Rafael Da Silva, has all but wrapped up Gary Neville’s position in the team and it seems as though Anderson will the one to replace another former United ‘kid’, Scholes.
“Anderson is a different type of player altogether to Roy Keane, but when you are looking for that central midfield player – we’ve got Scholes who is coming to the end of his career, Roy Keane has left us to try his hand at management – you say, ‘who is going to function for Manchester United?'” said Ferguson. “Then a 19-year-old lad comes in and you see his performance level. You know he is going to become a terrific player and life moves on. United move on, it’s inevitable.”
Whenever any big player leaves United, there will always be questions over who can replace them. It is important to remember that these big players can’t be replaced. There is no new Bryan Robson, Eric Cantona, Roy Keane, Peter Schmeichel, David Beckham etc., rather different teams that revolve around different people, to the greatest benefit of the team.
“Our style has changed over the last few years,” added Ferguson. “We’ve got different types of players to ten years ago, so you cannot replicate every team with identical players. When I first came here they used to say Bryan Robson was king and you cannot win a game without him. I began to believe it as well because we didn’t operate as well without him. We had to change the mentality – change the mental toughness. They thought you could never find another Robson, but then Roy Keane came along and filled the breach marvellously. Then they thought you would never get another Keane, but then someone like Anderson steps through the door and the cycle just keeps going.”
In my mind, Anderson isn’t Keane and he isn’t Scholes, but he’s starting to look like a nice mixture of the two. His style and spirit on the pitch are things to be admired, and I can only imagine how good he will be by the time he reaches 25-years-old!