When you are a 19-year-old promising youngster playing for the reserve team of one of the most popular football clubs in the world, you are bound to get a lot of attention. This is what Andreas Pereira is going through currently. Being named as Manchester United’s most promising young player last season, Pereira has caught the eye. So much so that Marouane Fellaini and Pereira’s U21 team colleague Adnan Januzaj have too vouched for the youngster to make more appearances for the first team in the coming season.
Pereira, son of the Brazilian national player Marcos Pereira, moved to United from PSV Eindhoven in 2012. He deservedly got a lot of attention in the Manchester United Premier Cup after which he was sought out by a lot of European teams. Such was the talent of the guy that Sir Alex Ferguson personally made sure that the teenager joined the United reserves. Pereira had an option of playing for either Brazil or Belgium as his national side. Even though he went ahead with Brazil in the end there was quite a tussle to get the boy on their side from both the national sides, another indication of his potential. Upon joining United, in a years span he captained the United youth squad in the Milk Cup 2013 where they ended up winning the competition with Pereira being their best player along with being the player of the tournament.
Pereira has always been an attacking midfielder well-known for his pin point accurate passes across the field. With the footballing intuitiveness that he has, his exceptional movement on the ground helps him pick out best of the passes while creating free spaces for the play to advance in to. It is an obligation that a footballer at this level should be good enough to complete passes successfully but Pereira is not the one to take the easier option. Even if under pressure from more than one defender, he won’t go for the safer option of making a complete but an ineffective pass. He would rather make an effort to pick out that very fine gap between the opposition players to feed the ball to the player in front. He has also been one of the set piece takers for the U21 side and a good one at it. Along with this he has an excellent eye for goal and a powerful long-range shot. The only place where he lacks is the consistency. He won’t be as influential as he can be throughout the 90 minutes of the game. He has a tendency of switching off a lot of times during the game. He may produce a moment of brilliance only to be followed by going in to oblivion for the rest of the match.
A number 10 by nature and habit, Pereira, most of the time has played “in the hole” just behind the strikers where he fed a lot of deliveries to the strikers and also got in scoring positions himself. This was a major reason for not getting through to the first team. United boasts of players like Wayne Rooney, Juan Mata amongst others who play the number 10 role much better. For Pereira to get past them, is as difficult as counting the stars in the new moon sky. His strength became his weakness. He hence had to start exploring other positions in the team along with developing his defensive play. He has much improved defensive runs and looks much secure now with his defensive side. He might remind some of a Rooney with his runs up and down the pitch. Louis van Gaal also has a role to play in this. Pereira now is not a number 10 in the U21 side but works the midfield more. He is involved in linking the defence to the strikers, a box to box midfielder. This has developed his skill set and has given the manager a practical option of involving him in the first team.
Looking at his past season performances fans were rightly concerned if Pereira might also take the Pogba route. He hardly had any playing time in the first team in spite of having superlative U21 season. Seeing a struggling Januzaj, Paddy McNair, even Tyler Blackett get the opportunity before him might have been a bit harsh. But one thing that Pereira definitely has is a magnificent attitude, which got a mention in his interview for the Inside United magazine . He was quoted saying
“Of course. When you’re frustrated and think things are not going well, you just have to put your head down and work harder because eventually everything will come right.”
His first team debut against MK Dons was a forgettable match where he came on as a substitute. He almost played the entire season before he got his Premier League debut against Tottenham, the match which United won. But more importantly the 15 odd minutes that Pereira played were enough for him to get noticed for his movement and ball distribution. He was also found to be the quickest player on the field as reported by the stats from Opta.
He has carried his excellent season form to his national appearances for Brazil in the FIFA U20 World Cup. He was directly involved in four goals where he scored two and assisted for the other two. One of the two goals that he scored in the last game against Serbia demonstrated the strength and his tackling abilities along with the fantastic goal scoring skills.
Pereira’s future with the United’s first team now looks much secure. After Pereira signed the new deal with United Van Gaal was quoted saying
“I am delighted that Andreas has signed a new contract. Andreas has all the attributes to become an integral part of the first team; great natural talent coupled with a good appetite to learn.”
Someone who wants to learn and has the skill set to compliment that is exactly what any manager looks for in the youth. Looking at the hard work and the performances that Pereira has put in, it’s only fair to put him ahead in the pecking order to play for the first team rather than bringing in a new young player who is yet to prove himself at United. Pereira, only 19, has a long learning curve in front of him. But this is what United is all about; developing the young talent at the disposal and having a strong Youth system.
As Matt Busby once said; “If they are good enough, they are old enough“, Pereira should definitely have more playing minutes on back of his recent performances. Van Gaal also plans of taking promising youth on the pre-season tour of the United States of America where he will have a better picture of how Pereira has shaped. But realistically speaking, once the season commences and if all of the first team is fit Pereira won’t be a starter every match. However he can surely expect to be a regular in the first team as a substitute, like his colleague Januzaj. If he continues to grow, learn the way he has and keeps up his attitude about working hard, who knows this might just be a start of something special.
This article was researched and written by Chinmay Padhye. You can follow him on Twitter.