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Rise to fame: Joel Pereira, Portugal’s next number one?

Joel Pereira is set to start Manchester United’s final home game of the season at Old Trafford against Crystal Palace on Sunday. It will be the Portugal U21 international’s first senior start for the reds following his ten-minute appearance at the end of the 4-0 FA Cup fourth round victory over Wigan Athletic in January.

José Mourinho has high hopes for his compatriot, believing that Pereira could become the Portuguese number one for many years.

“We have a third goalkeeper that I think will be the best Portuguese goalkeeper of the next generation.”

Pereira started the 2016/17 season on loan. The Portuguese goalkeeper was sent back to his homeland to play for Belenenses, a mid-table Liga NOS side. His performances drew high praise from the Portuguese media, with Belenenses disappointed that Pereira was recalled in January be José Mourinho. Perhaps his best performance in Portugal came when he kept out FC Porto during a 0-0 home draw in November 2016. While Pereira achieved a man of the match 8.12 rating in the away win at Feirense. The Swiss-born ‘keeper made eight Liga NOS appearances for Belenenses, and two more in the Portuguese Cup and League Cup in the six-month spell. He only conceded nine goals, keeping three clean sheets, during a successful loan spell.

Pereira came back to Old Trafford to be the third choice ‘keeper behind David De Gea and Sergio Romero, allowing Sam Johnstone to leave on loan to Aston Villa. While Pereira replaced Romero, coming on as a substitute for the final ten minutes of the Wigan match in January, Pereira soon after got injured. But, now the Portuguese is back fully fit and ready to start a Premier League game at Old Trafford. Something that may help his transition to the first team is that Pereira played at Old Trafford as recently as Monday 5th May 2017. The Portuguese started as captain in the 3-2 win for Manchester United U23’s over Tottenham Hotspur.

The 20-year-old has also established himself as the Portugal U21’s first choice goalkeeper this season. His shot stopping abilities impressed as he kept a clean sheet in the 1-0 away win over Germany U21’s in March. Pereira has made four appearances for Portugal U21’s so far and is set to keep the role as number one for future matches, with the squad’s other goalkeepers over 21, with Miguel Silva, 22 and Rui Silva, 23. In fact, in three out of his four appearances so far, Pereira has kept clean sheets, keeping manager Rui Jorge happy.

Pereira is now in line to start United’s last domestic match of the season, as recently, following the 2-1 defeat at Tottenham, Mourinho said:

“I hope to play Joel against Crystal Palace. He’s a very good goalkeeper so we’re in safe hands.”

While during the post-match press conference after the Southampton match Mourinho once again praised Pereira and confirmed his start against Crystal Palace. He said:

“The next match, Joel is playing his first match in the Premier League. The kid also deserves this.”

Clearly, manager José Mourinho believes Manchester United have an excellent young goalkeeper in Joel Pereira. While the manager’s kind words will give Pereira a confidence boost, the experience the Portuguese has picked up this season for Belenenses and Portugal U21’s will be crucial when he starts his first Premier League game this weekend.

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