From Henry Winter in todays Telegraph
Always beware men on a mission. Italy were driven to the 2006 World Cup by a desire to prove calcio was about more than scandal. Liverpool's players were incensed by premature Milanese celebrations at half-time in Istanbul in 2005. Now Manchester United have the cause that could spur them to the Premier League and Champions League. The Double is more than a distant dream.
Whatever transpired at a players' Christmas party where common sense was left at the door remains a matter of conjecture. What has emerged from the Great John Street Hotel is more fuel for the fire of United ambition. Frustration must have filled their rivals as headline after accusatory headline assailed Sir Alex Ferguson's players. The Scot's belief that kind headlines soften individuals while harsh ones stir them could be confirmed again.
Pulling on that famous red shirt is motivation enough for most players, certainly those determined souls traditionally chosen by Ferguson, but United's footballers now share an additional common purpose, perhaps a grievance over the sweeping nature of much of the condemnatory reaction.
Casting an eye over those chasing glory in an intriguing Champions League competition that climaxes in Moscow on May 21, the conclusion must be that United possess more potential match-winners than main threats such as Real Madrid, Barcelona, Inter and AC Milan plus the English trio of Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool.
United would probably have dealt with Milan last season if they had had Owen Hargreaves to stifle Kaka. Now Hargreaves joins Anderson in forming one of the best-balanced deep-lying midfields in the world, captains of industry who bolt United together. Hargreaves, whose refusal to yield possession will make him a favourite of Fabio Capello, was always going to impress under Ferguson when fitness allowed.
Anderson's impact has been more surprising. Last summer, when United introduced Carlos Tevez and Anderson to the press, all but two questions were directed to the stocky Argentine striker with an eye for goal and reputation for complicated paperwork. Alongside Tevez sat the silent Anderson, hair braided, jeans ripped, with a look on his face that signalled his confidence that everyone would soon be talking about him.
So it has proved. All those candidates vying for Footballer of the Year honours, from Cristiano Ronaldo and Fernando Torres to David Bentley and Cesc Fabregas, will have noted Anderson's surge into the limelight. Close inspection of the Brazilian's game reveals few weaknesses; he wins the ball neatly and uses it effectively. He bossed Steven Gerrard at Anfield and few do that.
Anderson's distribution under pressure, particularly when situations permit only one touch, is an example to anyone craving a career in the game. The one weapon missing from a prodigious armoury remains a decent goal return. But Anderson is becoming an integral part of United's tactics, allowing the team's creative zephyrs to weave their magic.