Crunch time for Anderson at Old Trafford

Four years ago, the Brazilian was preparing for Olympic duty and collected a bronze medal in Beijing. It marked the start of a second impressive season with United but within 18 months his career had taken a sharp downturn. He was fined for returning home without his manager's permission and in February 2010 suffered a cruciate injury.

"The last two years have been very difficult," he said. "No-one wants a player who has a lot of injuries. 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%. I don't have any more injuries. I don't have a problem."

Anderson's first season at Old Trafford brought glory in the form of a Premier League title and the Champions League, when he was introduced purely to take a penalty in the shoot-out victory over Chelsea.

But after two-and-a-half years of problems and despite having a contract that runs until 2015, Anderson realises what happens over the coming weeks is likely to determine whether he has a future with the Premier League giants.

His fitness problems are the most obvious reason why Sir Alex Ferguson's squad has been so evidently short of midfield options. Both Paul Scholes and Michael Carrick bring finesse to the United engine room, and a clear touch of class, but in the absence of Darren Fletcher Anderson would be the one to provide energy.

In the overall analysis of last season's thrilling failure to retain the title, it has largely been overlooked that Anderson was part of that swashbuckling start that earned such rare praise. He even managed to score a couple of goals, something he had found difficulty with in his early years.

Typically, it was too good to last and another knee injury consigned Anderson to a further spell on the sidelines. When he made a surprise return against Blackburn - in a game more notable for the axing of Wayne Rooney - the South American got injured again and that was his season finished.

"This is a very big season for me," he said, following Saturday's 1-1 draw with Ajax Cape Town. "In my first three years we won everything; Champions League, Premier League, Carling Cup. But then I suffered a cruciate injury and had a bad problem. I tried to push through it when I came back but it was still sore. Sometimes it was bad and the pain stayed.

"Sometimes you think you might have to change clubs but I love it here. The club has always helped me, as have the other players. I have worked so hard trying to get right."

Source: PA

Source: PA