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How Felipe Anderson could fit in at Manchester United

by Leo Nieboer

Manchester United have been heavily linked to Brazilian winger Felipe Anderson from Lazio and reports continue to suggest he is a target for Louis van Gaal.

The 22-year-old, known for his ebullience and flair on the ball, has been terrorising full-backs in Serie A for several years now and with Man United struggling for attacking potency, could bringing the effervescent youngster to Old Trafford be a wise move?

With Louis van Gaal‘s overly rigid 4-2-3-1 system and his repressive playing style under immense scrutiny, uncertainty surrounds how a player like Anderson would function under the Dutchman’s methodology.

Anderson’s last two seasons with Lazio saw him feature primarily on the left (his most comfortable position) but he was often seen having spells on the right as well as a No.10. The Brazilian has, notably, spent most of his time at Lazio playing in a 4-2-3-1 system similar to the one utilised by van Gaal at United this season.

In terms of formation, then, Anderson would make a seamless transition if he decided to move to United. He would, however, be embracing a totally alien style of football to the one he is used to.

Lazio, under their Italian manager Stefano Pioli, have played in a typically ‘Italian way’ for the last two seasons. In other words, their attacking moves stem from patience and carefully deployed counter-attacks. This allows for Anderson to make use of what he does best: blistering pace, supreme control, and a mesmerising ability to burst past opponents. He is a nightmare for defenders on the back-foot.

Conversely, van Gaal’s possession based style of football would be a difficult alternative for a player who thrives on running at defenders and having space to roam forward, starting attacks from his own half. Anderson would need to calibrate his skill-set with van Gaal’s ‘passive possession domination’ approach, which, as others have already discovered, isn’t easy.

Regardless, Anderson, in relation to other wingers such as Memphis Depay, Juan Mata and Ashley Young, offers a different dynamic out wide and would be a immensely useful asset when trying to break teams down. His low centre of gravity means the youngster has impeccable balance when running with the ball, making him a dangerous customer for defenders in 1v1 situations.

United fans have been left frustrated with a lack of conviction on the flanks this season, bemoaning the fact that no winger seems able to successfully burst past a defender with the ball (which is, I may add, one of the most satisfying and glorious sights in football). Anderson’s first instinct is to leave defenders for dead, and his direct, unpredictable style would invoke some much needed excitement into United’s displays.

Of course, adding a player in January is always a precarious move, especially into a side gravely suffering from a lack of joie de vivre. Anderson could, under van Gaal’s system, descend into the pit of nervous mediocrity that surrounds him quite quickly.

Either way, adding such an exciting, energetic young player would definitely help alleviate some of the flatness in United’s current set-up.

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