The dynamic Brazilian Anderson is growing in influence in United's engine room, dictating the rhythm of the game
Wayne Rooney and Javier Hernández will receive the plaudits, and deservedly so, but there was another in Manchester United's ranks at the Reebok Stadium who caught the eye. The visitors' effervescent, left-footed Brazilian Anderson was the instigator of so many of United's brilliant moves on Saturday, setting the team's tone. As he continues to improve, he will soften the blow of Paul Scholes's retirement.
Anderson's increased confidence was instrumental to United's domination, the midfielder collecting the ball deep from his goalkeeper, David de Gea, when his centre-backs split and beginning the passing movements forward. Neither Nigel Reo-Coker nor Mark Davies wanted to leave their safe areas and tighten so high up the field, allowing Anderson to dictate the rhythm. In this defensive phase, Phil Jones and Patrice Evra pushed forward, which forced Chris Eagles and Martin Petrov deeper and offered the visitors more space in which to begin their build-up play.
Michael Carrick, who replaced Tom Cleverley, predictably played his deep-lying, safe game, rarely close enough for a pop at goal, but always ready to cope with rare counter‑attacking danger. Anderson has more vitality and energy. He received and searched for a front colleague to play a progressive forward pass, then followed that delivery forward to receive again and progress up the pitch. With his waspish left foot and change of pace, the Brazilian's form is making up for Scholes's absence and the less game time being enjoyed by Ryan Giggs.
Anderson's emergence shows the value of patience by both the manager and the player. The midfielder commands and demands the ball. He almost seems in love with it. His shooting and goals record will improve as his support play takes him closer to goal, as will his tracking of opponents and tackling as he plays more regularly. But he is already charged with responsibility: he takes the right‑wing corners, and his accuracy is better now than it was. He is an infectiously enthusiastic presence, forever calling for the ball.
Bolton had no answer. They had seemed determined to upset any early rhythm mustered by United with a series of poorly timed challenges, but this did not deter the visitors, whose early delivery from wide positions and brilliant box movement gave them three-goal daylight within the first 25 minutes. They swamped Bolton's four-man mid-line and zipped the ball to the touchlines, where Evra and Jones, my Guardian prediction for "buy of the season", gleefully joined in. This was another merciless display. Opponents must scratch their heads as they consider how best to stop them. Getting tighter to Anderson may be one answer.