Almost everyone will have by now seen the fantastic solo goal scored by Andreas Pereira, the Manchester United youngster who was playing for Brazil in the FIFA U20 World Cup. The 19-year-old scored in the final of the tournament against Serbia and had an impressive tournament by all accounts. Many will now call for his regular inclusion in the United side, but it takes more than a moment of magic to be considered for a starring role. There is no denying Pereira is a talented player, of whom many are convinced will go on to be a regular at United in the future. But should we be judging United hopefuls on these momentary flashes of brilliance?
One thing for certain is that Louis van Gaal will not be swayed on the basis of a 30-second YouTube clip. In fact, those who know Van Gaal’s thinking best will believe that this goal has not even propped Pereira up the pecking order or necessarily increased his future playing time under the Dutchman.
Van Gaal will want to see Pereira show his worth in training, displaying the footballing ability that he is capable of, but also be consistent in his desire and work-rate. It is widely known that the manager chooses his players with this criteria in mind, regardless of the size of transfer fees, past performances or indeed, solo wonder-goals.
The same can be said about Adnan Januzaj. The Belgian exploded on to the scene in October 2013 with two sumptuous strikes against Sunderland: a result that kept the wolves temporarily away from David Moyes’ door. With a real lack of quality in the United side of that season, Januzaj was thrust in by Moyes more regularly than the Scot would have considered doing previously.
With that added pressure and the physical strains of the Premier League, Januzaj’s form drifted in the second-half of the season and he was unable to build upon his early season exploits. His next full season didn’t exactly get off the ground under Van Gaal. He made only six starts in all competitions under the former Barcelona coach. One can only assume that Januzaj did not meet his manager’s aforementioned, exceptionally high standards.
It is commonplace during a season when performances and results are not entirely going to plan, that many will look to personnel, be it in the current squad or the transfer market, for ways in which the team can be improved. While supporters and indeed the media are entitled to speculate, the manager and his coaching staff are always in a stronger position to decide when a player has stepped up and is ready to be immersed in the team. If you have the raw talent of a Cristiano Ronaldo type player in your ranks, but he’s not getting his chance in the team, surely this says more about what the player is really lacking as opposed to the coaching staff not being able to spot a future star when they see one?
Take the case of Wilfried Zaha. David Moyes received a lot of criticism regarding the lack of playing time afforded to the young winger. During Moyes’ ill-fated reign, fans were itching to see what Zaha, who was signed by the great Sir Alex Ferguson the season before, could do in a United shirt. He was the standout player in the Championship for Crystal Palace whom he helped gain promotion. However, there is a big difference between embarrassing defenders at Charlton Athletic and then being able to do the same thing at Chelsea. Zaha was loaned out to Cardiff where he started brightly, but soon faded. He ended the season with the Bluebirds in the bottom three; his addition unable to keep them in the division. The player then returned to United for pre-season but was allowed to leave by Van Gaal on deadline day.
Zaha’s brief stint at United is a case in point; two managers with very different approaches to football did not deem him worthy enough of a place in the team or even at the club. If you are a firm believer in Twitter rumours then there was of course another rumour for Zaha’s failure under Moyes; in reality however, this was one of the few things that Moyes was right about during his dreadful spell as manager.
Despite all that is said of young hopefuls, it is naive to think that past performances and glimpses of skill are enough to warrant a place in the starting 11 of a club such as Manchester United. In the case of Pereira, the newest hopeful, he may well break in to the first team this season, but it ultimately depends on how hard he is willing to work for it.
With the Glazers having loosened the purse strings last Summer and appearing almost certain to do the same again, the competition for places and commitment level required from all players will be greater than ever.
This article was researched and written by Shane Connaughton. You can follow him on Twitter.