If you ask most Manchester United fans, about a lad in the academy with the surname: Pereira then most would instantly think of Andreas Pereira the young Brazilian attacking midfielder, however, another Pereira is making waves and could be set for a step up to the first team in the coming seasons.
Joel Castro Pereira is a young Portuguese goalkeeper, who has been competing with Sam Johnstone for the spot in between the sticks for United’s reserve side over the last 24 months. Pereira is a personal favourite of mine and I like the way he operates in-goal, standing 6”2 he is comfortable catching the ball and commands his area well.
Last season Pereira left Old Trafford in favour of the Crown Oil Arena when he joined Rochdale on a loan deal until last January. This spell away from United served Pereira well, as his game clearly matured and he returned to United a better player than when he left. Pereira saved a penalty on his Rochdale debut and was named man of the match, with Keith Hill, the Rochdale manager heaping praise on the goalkeeper:
“One good thing to come out of the night was Joel’s performance and I think he is going to be a top, top goalkeeper. His pass range is remarkable, he has composure and a thirst to win, he reads an opponent very well.”
Pereira returned to United in January and was reinstated to the Under 21’s team, where he demonstrated his maturity and became a key asset to Warren Joyce over the rest of the campaign, even being named the captain of the team when James Weir was unavailable for selection. The Under 21 season ultimately ended in silverware for the Red Devils as they won the league thanks to a last-minute strike against Tottenham courtesy of Guillermo Varela. Pereira was also involved in a first team match day squad after his return from loan when he was named as a substitute for the Europa League game against FC Midtjylland.
After an impressive end to the Under 21’s season Pereira received international recognition over the summer after he was called up to the Portugal Olympics squad. Before heading to the Olympics, Pereira featured in Jose Mourinho’s first friendly match against Wigan, where he came off the bench to replace Sam Johnstone, but he missed out on the pre-season tour of China due to his national team commitments. Pereira never appeared for Portugal at the Olympics but was on the bench as the team reached the quarter-finals, where they lost 4-0 against eventual runners-up Germany.
Realising that his first team opportunities were limited this season due to the presence of David De Gea, Sergio Romero and Sam Johnstone, on transfer deadline day he headed out on loan again, but this time on a season-long loan. He joined Portuguese club Belenenses where he will hope to feature regularly and impress Jose Mourinho enough to earn a place in his squad for next season.
Joel Pereira is still only 20 years old, and I believe that he could have a long future ahead of him at Old Trafford. Sam Johnstone is now 23 years old and it doesn’t look like he will ever challenge De Gea for the number 1 shirt at United, so he could look for a move to pastures new in the coming 12 months as he reaches the age where goalkeepers need to be playing regularly in order to develop. If Johnstone does leave then the third choice goalkeepers spot would become available, which Pereira would be more than capable of filling. He has the potential to surpass Romero to become the back up to De Gea, but unless the Spaniard leaves United then that will be the peak of Pereira’s United career.