MANCHESTER, United Kingdom, November 27 – Midfielder Anderson could return to the Manchester United team at home to West Ham United on Wednesday as injuries and suspensions unsettle the Premier League leaders’ squad.
United manager Alex Ferguson has several decisions to make about his starting line-up, with the midfield area particularly problematic.
Paul Scholes is suspended after being booked in the weekend victory over Queens Park Rangers, while Darren Fletcher may be rested, despite scoring against QPR, as he fights his way back from a career-threatening bowel disease.
Winger Antonio Valencia is also expected to miss the visit of Sam Allardyce’s team, after being absent from the 3-1 win over Rangers with a hip problem, while fellow wide player Nani has been ruled out with a hamstring complaint.
It all points to a more significant role for Brazilian Anderson, who has failed to scale the dizzy heights expected of him when he signed for £20 million ($32 million, 24.7 million euros) from Porto in 2007.
The 24-year-old’s development has been hampered by injury and an apparent lack of focus at times, to the extent that he has started just 60 league games in over five years at the club, and only one in the current campaign.
But his performance as a substitute against QPR helped change the game, with United transforming a 1-0 deficit into a 3-1 victory thanks in no small part to the inspirational performance of Anderson.
“The substitutes definitely made an impact. Anderson came in and turned the game around,” said goalkeeper Anders Lindegaard.
“He is one of the best players in the world at running with the ball, passing it and keeping that dynamic motion. He showed that by turning the game around, a brilliant player.”
Anderson could be handed a rare start against West Ham, although Michael Carrick, Tom Cleverley, Nick Powell and Ryan Giggs are in contention as well.
Ferguson must also decide whether to select Fletcher, only four days after he started a league game for the first time in a year.
Valencia, however, appears unlikely to be fit.
“He has a hip injury, he’s been in a bit of pain the last couple of weeks, he’s been playing with it,” said Ferguson.
“The type of guy he is, he never mentioned it until we asked him and he says it’s sore. It won’t be too long. He should be ready for next week.”
United will be anxious to avoid continuing a remarkable sequence of having gone behind in nine of their 13 league games to date this season.
Only the fact that they have managed to collect 18 points from losing positions has saved them from disaster.
“It’s a bad habit that we have to go behind to start playing,” added Lindegaard.
“We have turned games around but it’s something we have to look at and be stronger to take our chances and score goals when we get our opportunities.”
West Ham will head to Old Trafford on the back of a 3-1 defeat at Tottenham Hotspur that was overshadowed by allegations of anti-Semitic chanting by some Hammers fans, prompting a Football Association investigation.
Victory at White Hart Lane would have moved Allardyce’s side up to fifth but with Chelsea due to visit Upton Park three days after the United clash, West Ham know they face a testing challenge if they are to avoid slipping down the table.
“We have got a tough week, obviously, with Manchester United and then Chelsea and Liverpool coming up,” said striker Andy Carroll, who scored his first West Ham goal against Spurs.
“It’ll be tough so we just have to put this behind us now and focus on Wednesday.
“This game (at Tottenham) is all gone now so we’re going to have to concentrate 100 per cent on Wednesday, which is going to be another tough game.”