Man Utd 1-0 West Ham - Rafael and Anderson shine in victory
Manchester United were made to work hard in victory over West Ham at Old Trafford on Wednesday night, but will take great heart from the performances of Brazilian duo Rafael and Anderson.
Rafael, 22, was United's most impressive player on the night, demonstrating his remarkable improvement in recent months in a game against a very physical West Ham side.
The youngster nullified the threat of much-discussed winger Matthew Jarvis and dealt well with high-balls to the back-post. Most pleasing, though, was his reading of the game, making more tackles (4) and clearances (5) than any of his colleagues.
Manager Sir Alex Ferguson singled out Rafael, in particular, for praise after the game: "West Ham had a couple of skirmishes around our box with the high balls in there. You’ve got to defend them and there were a few blocked shots. In the main we defended well. Jonny Evans, Chris Smalling and Rafa, in particular, had fantastic nights.
"I think Rafa is maturing. He came here as a young kid and was in the first team at 17 or 18. He made a lot of rash mistakes because he’s so enthusiastic, but he’s maturing now and he’s learning from that."
In midfield, Anderson operated on the right side of a diamond set-up and floated around freely to great effect. With 66% possession, United excerted more control on the game than in recent fixtures and the driving runs forward of the former Porto midfielder showed a dynamism that the side have often lacked.
Ever-willing to get on the ball and take players on, Anderson offers something different for United and as part of the three-man base to the midfield, freed up Michael Carrick to influence proceedings. It is now up to the Brazilian to maintain his performance level for a longer period of time, with colleague Rafael offering a fine example in that regard.