Man United ‘Party Dog’ Who Ferguson Almost hit With a Stick
After joining Manchester United following a recommendation by Martin Ferguson – Sir Alex Ferguson’s brother and one of his most trusted scouts – Anderson was under pressure to deliver at Old Trafford. Ferguson the manager was told that the midfielder could become a better player than Wayne Rooney, with Anderson having been named the best player at the recent Under-17 World Cup.
The Brazilian signed for £27m at just 19 years of age, joining United in the summer of 2007. His career in England began brightly as he featured on 38 occasions for in his first season at United- winning the Premier League and the Champions League in 2008.
While he wasn’t included in the starting XI against Chelsea in Moscow, Anderson came on as a substitute and calmly dispatched his penalty in the shootout, which the Reds won 6-5. He was, by all accounts, one of the first players to stick his hand in the air and volunteer to take a spot-kick. He had never felt pressure like it, and yet, he was one of the calmest people in the entire stadium.
The midfielder went on to win the prestigious Golden Boy award in 2008. The accolade, awarded to the best footballer under the age of 21 playing in Europe, had previously been won by Lionel Messi, Sergio Aguero, Wayne Rooney and others.
Although it was Ferguson who recruited the player, he was apprehensive at first. It took his brother going to Brazil to watch Anderson to convince him that he was worth a go.
“I sent Martin over to watch him in every game for four or five weeks,” Ferguson wrote in My Autobiography. “Martin said, ‘Alex, he’s better than Rooney!’
“For Christ’s sake, don’t say that,’ I told him. ‘He’ll need to be good to be better than Rooney.’ Martin was adamant.”
Arriving as the second most expensive signing in the club’s history at the time – with only Rooney costing more – the midfielder appeared as though he had everything required to fill the sizeable void that Paul Scholes would leave. He couldn’t have enjoyed a better debut campaign, although he had not contributed on the scoresheet, he showed that, if nothing else, Ferguson was right to at least trust his brother.
Given that his start to life at Old Trafford was so promising, the subsequent drop off was even more frustrating. As Anderson was backed to mature and become an integral part of United’s side, his career rather went in the opposite direction.
While there was certainly no shame in being snubbed in place of Ryan Giggs in the 2011 Champions League final, the Welshman was 37 years of age at the time, and was coming towards the end of his distinguished career. The decision to play him in the centre of the park against Barcelona, given their quality in that position, was somewhat controversial. It was, in many ways, an important date in Anderson’s downfall.
Earlier this year, former United coach Mick Clegg offered insight into why the Brazilian failed to fulfil his potential at Old Trafford. He revealed that Anderson was a popular member of the Reds squad, and a gifted footballer. However, Clegg argued that the player didn’t reach the heights he should have because he was a ‘party animal’.
According to Clegg, who worked with the midfielder at Old Trafford from 2007 to 2011, Anderson was ‘lazy’ and not prepared to work hard enough.
“Anderson was one. You could never find a nicer person he was popular with everyone but he was a lazy bleeder,” he told The Athletic. “He always had his excuses. I used to have a stick and I said to Alex Ferguson very early on, If he carries on, I’m going to hit him with my bleeding stick.
“Fergie couldn’t believe it. ‘Don’t you dare. He cost me a lot of money. You can’t be hitting one of my players, are you mad?’ Then, six weeks later, Fergie came to find me. ‘Where’s that bloody stick?’, he said. ‘Give me that stick. I want to hit him’.
“Anderson was more than capable of being an absolute stormer of a player. He just needed his head knocking. He didn’t keep fit. He chose not to put in the work, so it’s hard to have too much sympathy for him. He was a party animal.”
Anderson struggled with injuries and fitness during the latter stages of his time at United, with the player unable to start in place of Scholes or Michael Carrick. Not that many others players did, mind.
His former teammate, Rafael da Silva, has previously spoken about Anderson’s love of fast food as a possible issue for his Brazilian compatriot’s issues at Old Trafford. The ex-defender revealed that the United midfielder lack focus – but not when it came to McDonald’s.
Writing in The Sunshine Kids, his joint autobiography with brother Fabio, Rafael said: “We could be on the team coach and pass the services on the motorway and Anderson would jump up impulsively and yell ‘McDonald’s, McDonald’s.’
“The guy was crazy, but I love him. Give him a football and he would just play with freedom and sometimes, if he got a good run of games, he could play as well as any player in the league. Not only that, but when he was playing well, we were playing brilliant football. He picked up a lot of big injuries and then his problems with eating the way he did started to affect him.”
He added: “I’m saying this with all seriousness. I don’t know if he ever took anything seriously. He just loved life in such an easy and casual way. In some ways that was a quality. It was what made him so popular and one of the most popular players at the club. But he would just eat whatever was put in front of him.”
Anderson made 181 appearances for United, with 171 of those coming under the management of Ferguson. Following the Scot’s retirement in 2013, the Brazilian only played 10 more times under David Moyes and Louis van Gaal. His last game for the Reds came in the 4-0 thrashing at the hands of MK Dons in 2014.
The midfielder ended up leaving Old Trafford in 2015 – signing for Internacional in Brazil at the age of 26. It was far from the return to his homeland that he would’ve hoped for, though, with Anderson missing a penalty on his debut. His second appearance saw him taken off after 36 minutes as he required an oxygen mask while playing in the Bolivian capital, La Paz.
He made a brief return to Europe, signing for Turkish outfit Adana Demirspor, but ultimately, his career was only going in one direction.
Anderson, who made eight appearances for his country, retired in 2020, aged 31. His career promised so much, but the player failed to reach his potential, despite his obvious quality. There are, undoubtedly, several reasons for that, one of which could be, as Clegg said, because he was a party animal. Another, as suggested by Rafael, was because he just loved McDonald’s too much.