Could Anderson have been 'best in the world' for Man Utd without McDonald's?

FT Desk
  • FT Desk
  • Updated: July 18, 2021, 12:06 CEST
  • 5 min read
Anderson battles Lionel Messi in the Champions League final

Anderson battles Lionel Messi in the Champions League final

Anderson could have been the best player in the world after signing for Manchester United.

However, his eating habits – including a love of McDonald's – led to weight and fitness issues that stopped him from reaching his peak.

That is the extraordinary view of former Man Utd defender Rafael da Silva, who has opened up on a host of interesting topics about life at Old Trafford.

Rafael is promoting his new joint autobiography The Sunshine Kids with twin brother Fabio, with some entertaining quotes reported by The Mirror this weekend.

When did Anderson join and leave Man Utd?

United signed Anderson from Porto shortly after he had turned 19 in May 2007, though the deal did not go through until July of that year due to work permit complications.

He signed for a fee of around €30 million and won the Golden Boy award in 2008.

Anderson stayed until February 2015 when he moved to Internacional on a free transfer after seven-and-a-half years.

He played 181 matches in all competitions for United, including the full game in Sir Alex Ferguson’s memorable last match as manager, the 5-5 draw at West Brom.

We would pass the services on the motorway and Anderson would jump up impulsively and yell 'McDonald's, McDonald's!'
- Rafael on Anderson

He quickly fell out of favour under David Moyes after the retirement of Ferguson in 2013, though, and had an unsuccessful loan spell with Fiorentina.

It was Louis van Gaal who eventually sanctioned his permanent departure.

Anderson did win four Premier League titles during his stay.

He came off the bench to score a penalty in the 2008 shoot-out victory over Chelsea in the Champions League final.

Anderson also started the 2009 final against Barcelona, which Ferguson’s United went on to lose 2-0.

Anderson lines up next to Cristiano Ronaldo ahead of the 2009 UCL final

Anderson lines up next to Cristiano Ronaldo ahead of the 2009 UCL final

What did Rafael say about Anderson?

Rafael had no doubt about the talent of Anderson, a midfielder who was something of a fan favourite at United despite struggling for consistency.

But he felt the midfielder could have been more professional at times, even if his relaxed approach to life was one that many other players admired, with Rafael saying he loves his fellow Brazilian.

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.

“It was no coincidence that his best form came when he had a lot of games because that was when he couldn't eat so much.

“I will say something about Anderson – if he had been a professional football player, he could have been the best in the world.

“I'm saying this was 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.”

Who else did Anderson play for?

Anderson had played for Gremio before moving to Europe with Porto, winning two league titles in Portugal.

After leaving United having struggled for first-team action on loan at Fiorentina, Anderson won the Campeonato Gaúcho with Internacional back in his homeland in 2015.

He fell out of favour after a couple of seasons also had a loan spell with Coritiba.

Anderson retired in 2020 at the age of 32, his last club being Turkish team Adama Demispor.

He stayed on in the backroom staff and is now assistant manager with Adama, recently helping them to achieve promotion to the Super Lig.

Anderson ended his career with eight caps for the Brazil national team too and won a bronze medal at the 2008 Olympics with the Under-23 team.

What else did Rafael and Fabio say about United?

Rafael accepted Moyes did not get a proper chance to prove himself at United but felt the former Everton boss was always likely to fail.

He pointed out the style of football he deployed was not suited to United traditions, with brother Fabio adding that a long ball system was “Plan A” for Moyes.

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Fabio also criticised Moyes for the standards he immediately demanded at United, pointing out senior players like Rio Ferdinand had achieved much more than the Scot in football at the time.

Rafael also opened up on his exit from United to join Lyon in 2015.

He revealed Van Gaal told him his time was up in a five-second conversation on the Dutchman’s second day in the job.

Assistant boss Ryan Giggs urged Rafael to try and prove Van Gaal wrong but the Brazilian was not a fan of the veteran coach’s methods, comparing them to “an army camp”.