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Sir Alex Ferguson ditched his bread and butter, the 4-4-2, for the more suave 4-2-3-1.
This was to originally fit Shinji Kagawa into the team, but has since laid the foundations for a brilliant partnership between Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney.
Van Persie talked about his combination with Rooney (via ManUtd.com):
I call it a nine-and-a-half because you have two positions, the nine and the ten, and we are both nine-and-a-half. We are just helping each other out. We both play behind and a bit higher up. It seems to be working well and I am very happy with Wayne—hopefully we can keep it going.
Anderson would be exciting to watch in the nine-and-a-half role. Unfortunately, his chances of consistently playing that position for United are slim to none.
This means he'll continue to run and tackle in midfield, which will put him at risk for more muscle injuries.
Writing for BBC Sport in 2009, South American footballing correspondent Tim Vickery was apprehensive about United's decision to change Anderson's position:
One point was made a few times, that Manchester United were playing their expensive new signing Anderson in central midfield, a role that no coach in his native land would have considered for a nanosecond.
I well recall him starring as an attacking midfielder in World Under-17 Cup in Peru in September 2005. He was voted Player of the Tournament and his performance in the semi-final against Turkey was one of the most devastating individual displays I have ever seen.
He charged through to set up a goal after 15 seconds, scored a glorious solo second, hit the bar with a free-kick, put his team-mates clean through three or four times - and in the final seconds, after Turkey had forced their way back to 3-3, his run took out their entire defence before he squared the ball for the centre-forward to tap home the winner.
Previously in his career there had not been much call for defensive awareness and tackling skills. It has been a bold switch by United. But as one who was wowed by Anderson on that night in Peru, a nagging doubt remains—not a conviction, nowhere near, just a doubt.
Could it be that in this new role Anderson is forced to sacrifice a bit too much of what he is naturally good at? He is now operating in a zone where giving the ball away can be disastrous. Launching one of those dribbles he unleashed against the Turks is high risk.
This necessity to rein in some of his attacking instincts might help explain his curious lack of goals for United.
Three years on, United's decision to change Anderson's position has disastrously backfired.
Have United ruined Anderson's career? Comment below with your thoughts.
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Statistics courtesy of WhoScored.com
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