Notorious for their elegance, trickery and overall technical ability, it would be a fair assessment to state that the Brazilian’s have always maintained a reputation of possessing real elegance on the football field. With iconic figures such as Ronaldinho, Kaka, and Rivaldo, the midfield prowess of Brazil has always been a star-studded one and one that has been blessed with naturally gifted footballers. So why has there been a lack of Brazilian magic at Manchester United in the Premier League era, and is Andreas Pereira the man to provide it?
Close control, fast feet and an eye to getting forward with the ball, Pereira epitomises the typical Brazilian midfielder. Having been at Manchester United since the age of 16, Pereira has risen through the youth academy representing the club at every youth level and was even rewarded the U21 Player of the Year in the 2014/15 season. After impressing at academy level, Pereira made his league debut under Van Gaal against Tottenham in 2015 and fans may recall his dipping free-kick in the League Cup fixture against Ipswich in September 2015, which resulted in his one and only goal for the club.
At the start of this season, however, Pereira was loaned out to Spanish club Granada where he has actually provided as one of the few positives for the La Liga side after a relegation-battling season. After performing in 28 out of the 30 league games, Pereira has established himself as a key member of the side, impressing on the left flank and the No.10 role showcasing his ability of close control and passing in tight spaces whilst also demonstrating his trickery and agile dribbling, driving forward with the ball and taking on defenders.
With just the four goals and two assists to his name, this season has certainly provided as a progressive but also valuable experience for the Brazilian who has thrived under being consistently chosen. The tricky midfielder certainly looks to have grown in confidence and looks to be a very comfortable player when in possession of the ball.
Where would he fit?
Pereira possesses a very similar style of play to that of Juan Mata in the sense of he likes little touches of the ball and is comfortable in the little pockets of space in between the opposition’s midfield and defence. However, Pereira does also hold a little bit more swagger in his play, as he also likes to operate in driving forward with the ball at his feet and attempting to take players on. The most obvious place for the Brazilian would no doubt be the No.10 role in behind the striker, where Pereira is most comfortable in getting on the ball and playing the possession game.
Despite also performing on the left-wing multiple times this season for Granada where he is given a free license to drift inside, I don’t believe this is where he fits into United’s current system. We have seen something similar try and be replicated with Mata out wide but evidently, when the wingers lack a burst of pace, it becomes very difficult for United to break their stubborn opposition down. Although displaying an attacking instinct to take a player on Pereira’s lack of acceleration, something current wingers such as Anthony Martial or Henrikh Mkhitaryan possess, suggests he wouldn’t be as effective out wide.
One alternative that could be considered is perhaps slotting Pereira in the middle alongside Ander Herrera and Paul Pogba, particularly in home games where United are granted the majority of possession. Herrera, who has showcased many times this season that he is reliable defensively, would provide as the sitting midfielder and would thus allow Pogba and Pereira to get forward and attack, whether it be running with the ball or distributing higher up the field.
Whilst Pereira has evidently progressed significantly as a footballer during his loan spell with Granada, the one question I would raise about the Brazilian is that we do have many similar style players like him. The nice neat kind of football that Pereira likes to influence the game is something that we have already in the likes of Mata, Mkhitaryan, Herrera and Michael Carrick etc. If Pereira does not seem to offer anything different to our current side then it is going to be very hard for him to find a way into Mourinho’s team, particularly with the Portuguese’s track record of playing the youth.
On the other hand, after showcasing glimpses of his quality it would certainly be foolish not to give the youngster an opportunity. With much of his potential still to be fulfilled, it could be a wise decision to send him on loan to another Premier League side as if not I could only imagine small cameo performances from him next season. Saying that, I would love for him to burst onto the scene and make a huge impact for the team, however, this can only be accomplished if given the opportunity from Mourinho.
Written by Joshua Gmerek