Andreas Pereira: Ready To Shine and Spare Man Utd A Recruitment
26th July 2017. By Ryan Baldi.
Manchester United have already splashed out in excess of £100 million this summer to sign Romelu Lukaku and Victor Lindelof. But manager Jose Mourinho has openly admitted that he is growing frustrated at the club’s lack of further transfer activity and supporters too are getting anxious.
Numbers are needed in midfield and attack, runs the general opinion, with Eric Dier of Tottenham Hotspur and Inter Milan winger Ivan Perišić both named as priority targets for the Red Devils.
However, the form 21-year-old playmaker Andreas Pereira has thus far displayed in pre-season has shown that the Brazil under-23 international is ready to contribute at Old Trafford next season, and could help ease his manager’s recruitment headache if the club’s transfer targets continue to prove illusive.
Pereira, who joined United from PSV as a teenager in 2011, has impressed for Manchester United on their tour of the USA, operating as either a deep-lying playmaker at the base of midfield or a little more advanced as a No.8.
The Belgium-born youngster showcased his maturity, tactical understanding and confidence in possession in his first outing of the tour, coming off the bench to play the second half of United’s 5-2 victory over LA Galaxy, operating just in front of the back four.
Pereira started the Red Devils’ fixture against Real Madrid in the International Campions’ Cup the following week, this time on the right of the central midfield trio with Michael Carrick in the anchor role. Unfazed by the prospect of lining up opposite Luka Modrić and Toni Kroos, the youngster was a buzzing, dynamic presence, impacting proceedings in a way his more experienced colleagues and opponents struggled to.
Withdrawn at half-time, United looked wholly disjointed and unable to get a foothold in midfield without Pereira in the second half.
To the more casual observer, Pereira’s performances Stateside will have come as something of a surprise. Most will have tuned in to see Paul Pogba dazzling in the middle of the park, or to catch a glimpse of Lukaku in his first appearances as a United player, caught off guard by the unheralded youngster.
But those who have been following the 21-year-old’s progression through the youth ranks on the red side of Manchester, and subsequent loan spell in La Liga with Granada last term, will know all too well that he has everything he needs to become a fully-fledged star at Old Trafford.
Marked out as a prospect of some note from the time he joined the 20-time champions of England, Pereira shone for the club’s academy and under-21 sides as a highly-technical No.10, capable of creating scoring opportunities out of nothing for team-mates as well as having a sharp eye for goal himself.
A master of set-pieces, Pereira marked his senior debut, a League Cup win over Ipswich Town at Old Trafford two seasons ago, by curling a delightful 25-yard free-kick into the top corner. He also scored directly from a corner kick in an under-21 game against Tottenham in September 2015.
With a log-jam in the first-team midfield position at the start of last season, Mourinho elected to ship the young creator out to Granada to gain valuable senior experience, but the Portuguese coach kept a watchful eye on him throughout.
Pereira didn’t disappoint, either. Despite the fact that he was playing in a team which ultimately finished bottom of the table, his work ethic, desire and fighting spirit would have pleased Mourinho, while his technical weaponry only further expanded in Spain.
Whether on the left, the right, centrally as a No.10 or deeper as an No.8, Pereira was ready, willing and able when called upon. Demonstrating flawless passing technique, mesmerising dribbling skills and remarkable ingenuity, the United man scored five goals, provided three assists and returned an impressive average of 1.7 key passes per 90 minutes.
He also showed a penchant for the spectacular, with his flick-up-and-volley strike from 25 yards against Las Palmas in February one of the goals of the season; his free-kick prowess yielded a wonderfully creative effort against Espanyol in January, rolling the ball under the wall and into the bottom corner, completely bamboozling goalkeeper Diego López.
If there was one issue clouding the otherwise overwhelmingly positive Spanish excursion for Pereira, it was the fact that his tenacity occasionally over spilled into petulance, earning him 10 yellow cards and one red over the course of the season – something Mourinho will surely look to iron out.
Upon returning to Manchester, Pereira’s first-team prospects ahead of the coming season seemed uncertain. The pre-season tour was to act as a kind of audition for the midfielder: impress, and Mourinho would find a place for him in the squad; any lingering question marks could see him loaned out once more.
But he has passed with flying colours, showing his manager that he is more than capable of taking the next step in his development and becoming regularly involved at the highest level.
Of course, any excessive excitement over Pereira’s performances on the tour must be served with a hearty spoonful of perspective; this is, after all, only pre-season. The Brazilian cannot be expected to assume a key role in the Red Devils’ starting line-up just yet, as that would be to place too heavy a burden of expectation on such young and still developing shoulders.
But a rotational role, deputising for the likes of Pogba and Ander Herrera, is well within Pereira’s capabilities, offering the chance to gain experience of the goldfish bowl scrutiny of Old Trafford without the pressure to drive a title challenge and produce results on a weekly basis.
For his part, Pereira is supremely confident in his ability and knows exactly what the coming season has in store of him.
“I want to play and show everyone that I can help the team and I want to win trophies and help everyone getting trophies and get a good season,” he told the media recently.
“Now I am focused at United. I am here and I want to stay here and I believe I am going to stay.”
Mourinho will undoubtedly continue to push for midfield reinforcements until the transfer window closes. But, in Pereira, he has a hungry and versatile player ready to give his all for the team – the United manager might just be minded to put away the chequebook.