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What went wrong for Anderson at Manchester United?

How Anderson went from one of the world's best prospects to a Manchester united reject.

Anderson never really made a mark at Manchester Untied

The recently closed transfer window saw its fair share of customary ‘transfer tales’, but few can boast of being as intriguing as that of Anderson – the Brazilian who arrived at Manchester United with the potential to become one of the best players in the world. Alas, that potential was never realized, and Anderson will command a legendary status from the Old Trafford faithful – for all the wrong reasons.

Anderson’s unbelievable seven-and-a-half-year association with Manchester United ended in February, but how he got to Old Trafford in the first place always makes for an intriguing story. With that in mind, let’s take a look at the man who was tipped to be ‘better than Rooney’ and answer the question: what exactly went wrong for Anderson at Manchester United?

Anderson was a promising talent

Anderson was undoubtedly a massive talent. The youngster joined Brazilian side Gremio as a junior and soon fought his way into the first team with his dynamic performances from midfield. He also attained a cult status from the Brazilian club’s fans after he scored the winning goal against Nautico in the Serie A promotion playoff back in November 2005, which earned the club a place back in the top flight – all this while having just six teammates to assist him on the pitch due to the others being sent off. 

Anderson Porto Manchester United oliveira
The Brazilian was spotted while playing for Porto

2005 turned out to be a special year for Anderson as he also picked up the Golden Ball award for being his country’s best player during the South America Under-17 Championship.

Such magnificent performances could only result in elite clubs becoming aware of his talent, and that’s exactly what happened when Porto signed the then 17-year-old for €7 million in January 2006. Anderson needed little time to adjust to life in Portugal and in no time helped them to the Portuguese Championship.

His brilliant streak continued after that, only to be cut short by an unfortunate tackle that resulted in a broken leg. But the signs were clear – Anderson had what it took to become one of the best, and it was only a matter of time before one of the best clubs in the world came calling for his signature. That club turned out to be Manchester United.

The Manchester United dream

Anderson Manchester united Alex Ferguson
Anderson signed for Manchester United in 2007

It’s common knowledge that Manchester United paid £26 million for the Brazilian’s signature, but that’s not what makes his transfer so interesting.

Anderson, who was making waves in Portugal with Porto, caught the attention of Sir Alex Ferguson who sent his brother Martin, who was United’s chief scout, to the country to observe him for five weeks. Martin was so impressed with what he saw that he told his legendary brother that the youngster was ‘Better than Rooney’, a statement acknowledged by Sir Alex himself in his autobiography.

Ferguson was obviously reluctant to believe his brother’s exaggerated statement, but he eventually gave in and went ahead and signed the youngster before other clubs stepped in. Thus, Anderson’s Manchester United dream had begun.

The dream turns into a nightmare

The fact that Martin Ferguson made an exaggerated statement soon became evident when the Brazilian failed to score in his first two seasons, the only goal in his debut season coming in the 2008 UEFA Champions League final against Chelsea during the penalty shootout in Moscow. Further seasons didn’t bring any improvement, and although Anderson was often used by Ferguson during his time at the club, the impact his manager hoped he would have was clearly lacking.

In fact, it’s strange that a player with such mediocre contributions wasn’t offloaded sooner. The answer to that could possibly be Sir Alex’s desire to give Anderson more time as he was still young with the potential to improve.

But not every late bloomer blossoms into a near perfect product, and after a failed season under David Moyes, Anderson was offloaded by Louis van Gaal to Internacional on a free transfer.

What went wrong for Anderson?

Anderson Manchester united
In 7 years Anderson never consistently impressed for United

There could be several answers to this question. One of them is definitely Anderson’s inability to adapt to the perilous Premier League, which was also the cause of his compatriot, Kleberson’s failure at Old Trafford.

Another reason is, of course, the numerous injuries he suffered as a player, and his failed attempts at remaining fit. Anderson seemed to put on weight after every injury, which was due to his love of junk food – a fact acknowledged by his team mates Patrice Evra and Rio Ferdinand who, during a tour video, joked that they were up in the middle of the night to fetch the Brazilian his daily hamburger.

Anderson’s unhealthy lifestyle severely impacted his once superb pace along with his ability to pull off the astonishing moves he displayed during his youth.

A third reason could be the psychological impact all this had on the player. Remember, he was once destined to be one of the world's best by the media and his coaches, only to spectacularly bomb at one of the planet's top clubs, under the scrutiny of every critical fan and pundit out there. All these factors can affect a player’s will to kick on and become one of the best.

The reasons for what went wrong for Anderson at Manchester United are now an open secret, but the sad part is that he may very well fade into obscurity in a few years much like Kleberson, who after failed stints at various clubs after his Manchester United tenure, now plies his trade at Indy Eleven – a club in the United States’ second tier.

Life can be cruel like that, and one can only hope that wherever Anderson plays, he doesn’t lose faith in the game he loves so much.

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