Manchester United’s struggles this season have been widely blamed on their lack of incisiveness in attack, the Premier League giants looking so blunt going forward that Louis van Gaal’s future has been brought into question. A number of high quality upgrades have subsequently been linked with a move to Old Trafford, with Real Madrid’s James Rodríguez, Riyad Mahrez of Leicester City's and Southampton's Sadio Mané all being mentioned as possibilities.
A raft of Italian media outlets – including reliable newspaper La Repubblica – have added another name to that list however, believing United would be willing to make Lazio an offer of around €45 million for Felipe Anderson. The Brazilian was reportedly a target for the English club last summer, but the Biancocelesti refused outright as they had qualified for the playoff round of the Champions League and wanted to retain their best players.
They would lose that tie and have struggled in the first half of the campaign, sitting in tenth place after winning just seven of their 17 Serie A fixtures thus far. Anderson – who signed a new five year contract earlier this year – has scored just five goals in his 25 2015/16 appearances, a substantial loss of form in comparison to a year ago when he became one of the continent’s hottest properties.
December 2014 would see Lazio’s key man Antonio Candreva suffer an injury that would rule him out for a sustained period and force Coach Stefano Pioli to give Anderson what was then a rare start against Parma. Netting a tap-in that day to mark his first goal for the Italian club, he followed up with two assists in a win over Atalanta and ensuring he was firmly in the spotlight as Lazio travelled to San Siro to take on Inter.
Seemingly unfazed by the occasion, Anderson scored after just two minutes before then going on to show off his skill and talent, repeatedly embarrassing Nerazzurri defenders throughout the match. He would cap the consummate display by bagging another goal, skipping past three men before firing a beyond goalkeeper Samir Handanović, but his performance came as no surprise to his team-mates.
"It was only a matter of time before he starting doing the exceptional things he does in training in competitive matches," midfielder Marco Parolo would say, and Candreva’s return would only serve to make Anderson even more effective. With that duo playing either side of Miroslav Klose, they provided an endless stream of chances for the German star to help Lazio finish third in the league and earn a place in the Coppa Italia Final.
With 11 goals and six assists to his name, the Brazilian was undoubtedly a central figure to that success, drawing the interest of Atletico Madrid, United and Liverpool, as the latter sent scout Paul Goldrick to watch him in person. Narrowly missing out on a place in Brazil’s squad for the Copa America, his rise to stardom stood in stark contrast to his first year in Serie A, making just seven starts in the whole of 2013/14 after a €7.8 million move from Santos.
Anderson would fail to find the net at any point in that campaign, but two years later it seems the attention has turned his head somewhat, much to the annoyance of Pioli. The Coach told a recent press conference that “Felipe Anderson knows he is not delivering at the moment,” following up earlier comments that the 22-year-old must be careful about the people influencing him.
Indeed, despite the player netting in a 2-0 win over Genoa earlier this season, a visibly annoyed Pioli gave an honest appraisal of his issue with the number 10. “I know he has quality,” the former Bologna and Palermo boss explained. “I believe in him and he must be intelligent enough to recognise those who want to help him and those who want to lead him astray.”
It remains unclear who those comments were aimed at, but one person who has been credited with guiding his career in the past is current Brazil captain Neymar. The Barcelona star refers to his former Santos team-mate as his little brother, and Anderson says his close friend “was the one who advised me to come here, to have courage and to believe in myself more.”
Adding that he “will thank him forever” for paving the way for his move to Europe, the Lazio man now appears to be at something of a crossroads in his career. His pace and his direct style would mesh well with the way Manchester United prefer to play, a winger in-keeping with the traditions of the club.
While it remains to be seen if they will have more success with their latest bid, Felipe Anderson would appear to be a smart signing to help bring the Red Devils back into contention, particularly if he can rediscover last season’s excellent form.