When Did Anderson's Manchester United Fairytale Turn Into a Nightmare?

Compare former Manchester United midfielder Anderson with Cesc Fabregas in 2015 and people will rightfully question your sanity. But back when he first moved to England, however, it was actually a reasonable comparison...


He's better than Kleberson,


He's our midfield magician.

To the left, to the right,

To the samba beat tonight,

With the brass, he is class,


Unfortunately, the days when these words echoed around Old Trafford are long gone. Compare former Manchester United midfielder Anderson with Cesc Fabregas in 2015 and people will rightfully question your sanity.

But back when he first moved to England, however, it was actually a reasonable comparison.

The Brazilian arrived at Old Trafford as a 19-year-old in the summer of 2007, one of the hottest talents in European football at the time. The previous season, Anderson had won numerous admirers with a string of excellent performances for Porto and in 2005 had been awarded the prestigious Golden Ball at Fifa's Under-17 World Championship - a prize won by Fabregas himself two years earlier.

In his 2013 autobiography, Sir Alex Ferguson described the "incredible self-belief" the youngster brought with him to Old Trafford. The legendary manager also revealed that United had been keeping an eye on Anderson since the age of 16.

Martin Ferguson, brother of Sir Alex and United's chief European scout, was sent to Portugal and watched every game the sensational young Brazilian played for a period of five weeks. Reporting back, the verdict was "he's better than Rooney" - high praise indeed.

United soon snapped him up along with Nani from Sporting Lisbon in a double raid on the Portuguese Primeira Liga. Various numbers as to what price was actually paid for Anderson have been quoted over the years, but it is thought that the fee with add-ons was anywhere between £20million and £26million.

With the benefit of hindsight, people now gawp at such figures, but in his first season all that promise from his days at Porto was clearly evident and it looked like money very well spent. Anderson seemed eager and energetic, could run with the ball and seemed to handle the physical transition to Premier League football very well. He was also a very popular character in the dressing room and around the club's Carrington training ground.

At the end of that first year in England, Anderson picked up Premier League and Champions League winners' medals, having played 38 games in all competitions. He came off the bench in the European final against Chelsea and converted a crucial penalty in the shootout to help crown the club as continental champions for the third time.

The following campaign and now out of his teens, the rising star played fewer games in the Premier League, but still picked up another winners' medal and made 38 total appearances just as he had done the year before.

But even then there were already injury doubts, with a nagging back problem causing him pain. He still started the Champions League final against Barcelona and although United lost that game, all in all Ferguson declared those first two seasons a success for his young Brazilian.

Unfortunately, Anderson's real problems started shortly afterwards. During the 2009/10 season, his game time diminished significantly and he wanted to leave Old Trafford to go back home and try and force his way into Brazil's World Cup squad for the finals in South Africa. There was an offer on the table from Vasco da Gama, but Ferguson refused for the simple reason that there was too much money tied up in him to just let him go.

He later returned home without permission anyway and was fined £80,000 for the trouble. On his return to Manchester, his season was prematurely ended by a knee ligament injury and the young player with immense promise and potential has arguably never been seen since.

During his recovery, Anderson was also involved in a serious car accident and after that he never really re-established himself in the manager's first-team plans. In the years since, a string of further niggling injury problems, a general loss of form combined with an end to the brash confidence that characterised his first two seasons in England, as well as problems with his increasing weight, have all but rendered his career completely stagnant.

The weight issue in particular has been a regular point of humour for opposition fans, but it actually stemmed from inside the United camp when Patrice Evra jokingly said during an MUTV production, "I bring him his burger (everyday) at 1 o'clock."

Last season, Anderson failed to kick-start his career with a loan spell at Fiorentina, even with a snazzy new nickname (Andow), while United gave away his squad number to Juan Mata. He barely featured in Louis van Gaal's plans over the first half of this season, with his final appearance a weak cameo at Burnley back in August.

United had had no offers at all during the January transfer window until Internacional eventually took him back to Brazil for free, leaving one of the world's once most promising talents with a battered and bruised reputation, fighting to save his future in the game at the age of just 26.

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