Why Anderson is already on backfoot in make-or-break Man Utd season

He's loved by teammates and his manager, but Anderson is under no illusions that his Manchester United career is safe.

The Brazilian's bid to re-establish himself has already suffered a setback after his omission for United's dramatic win at Southampton on Sunday.

"I don't know," was Anderson's reply yesterday to a fan's question on his social media website about why he was missing for victory at St Mary's.

It must have come as a shock as the previous week, against Fulham, Anderson was given a first start for the season. But seven days later he didn't even make the bench, with teenager Nick Powell preferred ahead of him.

“No-one wants a player who has a lot of injuries," he confessed in preseason.

“But I am still young. I am only 24. And I believe I can get through this.

“All summer I stayed in Europe to work on my knee. Now I am 100 per cent. I don’t have any more injuries. I don’t have a problem.”

For that one appearance against Fulham, Anderson was snapped in conversation with Usain Bolt. The contrast couldn't have been greater. Despite the full preseason behind him, Anderson's roly-poly physique suffered in comparison. Is he really giving his knees the best chance of handling the rough-and-tumble of the Premier League while his frame is carrying an extra 5-10 kilos?

For all the barbs fired from Old Trafford at former hero Carlos Tevez, the sight of the lighter, leaner version in Manchester City colours must have impressed even Sir Alex Ferguson.

Ferguson rates Anderson and is convinced he has something special on his hands. Even when Anderson went AWOL last season, Fergie refused to publicly criticise him.

But his time at Old Trafford has been blighted by knee problems and you have to wonder after that 81 minutes against Fulham whether Ferguson has seen enough.

"Anderson has not yet reached his full potential, it is there for all to see. I just hope he does not end up like Michael Owen, who has had bad luck with injuries throughout his career," said the manager during the summer.

"He's only 24, so time is on their side."

Ferguson first became aware of Anderson eight years ago and has been a fan ever since. At 16, he was playing first team football for Gremio in Brazil's Second Division and helped them to promotion in that debut season. Comparisons with Ronaldinho were soon being made and less than 12 months later he was named the player of the tournament at the U17 World Cup.

Fast-forward to today and Anderson is a completely different player to the one that was pulling up trees for Gremio.

A former junior teammate, Bruno Coutinho, admits the move to United transformed Anderson's game.

"Actually, Anderson was an attacker (with Gremio). Even when he went to Porto he played in attack.

"From the moment he started playing for Manchester United he changed into a more defensive position, playing as the third or the second man in midfield," said Coutinho.

Like everyone connected to Gremio, Coutinho still has great belief in Anderson's talent - perhaps more so than the vast majority of United fans.

"Anderson is a player of another level," added Coutinho. "He is an athlete who needs no comment.

"He' suffered a few injuries, but I'm sure that he will solve all his problems this season."

At Gremio, Anderson has discussed investing in the club's new stadium and having a bar named in his honour.

"We made the proposal to Anderson. Let's see if the player will accept," said club vice-president Eduardo Antonini.

Gremio also made enquiries during the summer about actually signing the midfielder, though soon accepted they couldn't match the wages he's enjoying at United.

And for the player, he feels he can still meet the expectations of Ferguson, even after Saints axing.

“The thing is, if I stay fit, I can be that player. I can be a success at United.

“You have seen, when I don’t have a problem, I play well."

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