A Star In The Making

Last updated : 05 November 2007 By Ed
Richard Williams in The Guardian takes a look at Anderson's growing reputation.

Sir Alex Ferguson sent United out with two holding midfielders, Owen Hargreaves and Anderson, playing to a pattern that closely resembled the way Dunga and Mauro Silva performed for Brazil in the 1994 World Cup, which is to say that their primary job was one of interception and disruption.

Although both did their jobs well, it was Anderson who constantly caught the eye. Any small black-skinned midfield player with flying locks and an aggressive mobility is likely to bring to mind the image of Edgar Davids, whose career took him from Ajax to Tottenham via Juventus, the two Milan clubs and Barcelona, but Anderson looked as if he had been brought up watching nothing but videos of the Surinam-born Dutchman's finest performances.

The 19-year-old Brazilian newcomer chased and harried and, having won possession, distributed carefully. Most of all, however, he bit into the tackle with impressive frequency and legitimate ferocity. When Cesc Fábregas tried to teach him a lesson after 40 minutes, the Arsenal prodigy got himself booked for sliding into the younger man's ankles.

These two have something in common. When they appeared in Fifa's Under-17 World Cup, Fábregas in 2003 and Anderson in 2005, both won the Golden Boot for the tournament's outstanding player. On Saturday, each of them the most influential man in his respective team, they made it look a young man's game.

Eleven months Fábregas's junior, Anderson Luis de Abreu Oliveira joined Gremio in 1993, when he was five. He had made only five first-team appearances before moving to Porto, whose investment was endorsed by the judgment of the great Mario Zagallo, one of only two men to win a World Cup as both a player and a manager, who said: "Everything suggests that he is going to be a superstar." Anderson's farewell gift to Gremio was the goal that took them back into the top tier.

This was his fourth start in the Premier League, his debut having come against Sunderland on the season's opening day, when he was withdrawn to make way for Louis Saha, who scored the game's only goal. In Kiev a fortnight ago, however, Anderson was among United's outstanding players in a 4-2 victory and on the basis of such performances it would be no surprise to see him become a cornerstone of Ferguson's new generation.

Anderson had been replaced by the time the two sides exchanged the game's third and fourth goals but he had left an impression that would have been noted by Wenger, whose own faith in youth led him to favour Mathieu Flamini over the impeccable, selfless and now long-suffering 31-year-old Gilberto Silva as Arsenal's lone defensive midfielder. Even for Brazilian footballers, as Anderson will no doubt discover, life is not always easy.