Anderson resurgence is timed just right
Anderson's long-awaited return to form could not have come at a better time. The boy from Brazil, who first illuminated Old Trafford, and then infuriated it, is finally beginning to look at home in the centre of United's midfield. His goal on Tuesday only his second in 109 appearances since his £18m move from Porto three years ago ensured top spot in Champions Group C, and the side-stepping of Barcelona and Real Madrid in the next round. A week earlier he was the only player to avoid the hair-dryer treatment from Sir Alex Ferguson following the Carling Cup mauling at West Ham. And on Monday he will be charged with the responsibility of curtailing Samir Nasri and Jack Wilshere in the title showdown with Arsenal. With Paul Scholes struggling to overcome a groin injury in time for next Monday's clash, Anderson is set to continue in the heart of midfield in place of a player Ferguson tipped him to one day succeed. Scholes hasn't played since the 1-0 win against Rangers last month and Ferguson says he is facing a fight to be back in time for the visit of Arsene Wenger's Premier League leaders. Paul tried training on Sunday and came off, he said. He will be doubtful for Monday. Finding the next Scholes has been top of the United manager's priority list for the last three years. But he was convinced he'd done just that when plucking Anderson from obscurity in 2007. Then aged 19, Ferguson was urged by his scouts to buy, buy, buy, such was his potential. Described as anything from the next Ronaldinho to a future world footballer of the year, United pounced, even though he had only just recovered from a career-threatening leg break. The reports we were getting were saying that he was the best young player in the world, said Ferguson. At the time, I was saying, 'For God's sake, let's calm down a bit here.' I knew he had real potential, but I didn't want to put labels on him like that. But after a hugely impressive first season, Ferguson had no qualms hailing Anderson a player capable of following in United's rich heritage of world class midfielders in the traditions of Bryan Robson, Roy Keane and Scholes. Such comparisons looked fanciful as Anderson's star dipped to the point over the next two seasons that he was on the verge of a move to Lyon last January. A cruciate ligament injury in February, ruling him out for the rest of the season, followed by a car crash in Portugal over the summer, only added to his torment and the sense that his United career would soon be brought to an end. But his return to form in recent weeks culminating with his crucial strike against Valencia has been a pointer to the talent that convinced Ferguson to lavish such praise on him in his early career. Now he wants to see the 22-year-old produce those kind of performances on a regular basis and follow in the footsteps of Nani, who has turned his career around after coming so close to the exit. Anderson has been absolutely brilliant in the last three games, said Ferguson. He has been tremendous. He offers something different from the other midfield players we have got. He has tremendous pace, can beat a man and is always decisive in his passing. The visit of Arsenal is fitting given that it was against such opposition that Anderson first ingratiated himself with United supporters. His dominant displays against Cesc Fabregas and Steven Gerrard in his first season in England made him a cult hero on the terraces. And how he performs against Wenger's side on Monday will be a good barometer as to his progress this season. With Ferguson considering moves for midfielders, Jordan Henderson and Bastian Schweinsteiger, Anderson is running out of time to convince his manager that he can be long-term answer in the centre of the park. But if he is to truly prove he can be the successor to Scholes, he must start to match the veteran's goal ratio.Anderson's most un-Brazilian-like finishing has become an on-going joke at Old Trafford but it is far from laughable. Though scoring on Tuesday, he missed another glorious chance in the first half that was typical of his form in front of goal since heading to these shores. His only other United goal came against Tottenham at the beginning of last season. Ferguson is adamant he needs to be ruthless in front of goal and hopes the Valencia strike will be the turning point. He should score more, he said. The boy has terrific talent. He has great pace and power. He is a strong boy. We are pleased he got a goal. It may help him.
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