We are nearing the end of preparations as Manchester United fly back home to wrap things up ahead of their Friday night fixture against Leicester City next week.
United’s camp was a lot happier after the final game – as they edged a Real Madrid – who are admittedly in their nascent stages of pre-season – in Miami, Florida. Mourinho, himself was reasonably cheerful (come on, he smiled a few times) – not least with the returning English and Belgian contingent to join in on the practise sessions at Carrington before the Premier League takes centre-stage.
Even when the focus in these last two weeks has largely been on Jose Mourinho and his general frustrations given the way things have moved (or not moved) in the transfer window, if there was one player that really caught the eye in the pre-season friendlies, then it was the Brazilian Andreas Pereira.
The 22-year old has enjoyed a couple of impressive loan spells in La Liga – a full season with Granada in 2016/17 where he honed his already proficient technical skill-set scoring 5 goals and 3 assists making 34 starts – in a variety of different roles across the forward line and crucially – in midfield.
In a modest environment in Granada, in Southern Spain – Pereira often took the lead role, playing an integral part in the team’s attacking structure with his ability to move the ball well, run into spaces and shoot from distance with an eye for set plays.
Under Valencia, even though the opportunities were limited, his development from playing with the U21s and winning leagues at that level for Manchester United to featuring at one of the biggest clubs in the country – with the pressures that come with representing the club and the community, will certainly stand him in good stead for what is in store for him in the future. At Valencia too, Pereira was deployed in multiple areas: central midfield, on the left and right and the 22-year old was able to adapt seamlessly – all down to his quality on the ball and a natural instinct to run with it at the opposition.
In more ways than one, Pereira’s footballing style closely resembles that of fellow Brazilian and current Barcelona forward Phillipe Coutinho. The effortlessness on the ball, willingness to cut inside and open up shooting angles from distance – and the arguably most obvious parallel: free kicks, suggest that Andreas Pereira has a template that has been successful in England, with the right coach and setup to support him.
While Pereira’s flexibility is an asset, it is important that he nails down a position at United and there is no better time to do that than on the opening day of the season. He has earned his place in the starting line-up for the game against Leicester and barring some extraordinary circumstances on Friday, he is expected to make it – in a midfield three alongside Fred (or Herrera) and Matic.
Manchester United have lacked some of the old tenacity and vertical movement in and from deeper midfield areas – in the last few years and it is felt particularly when Paul Pogba is not on the side.
Pereira certainly has the potential to fill that void and with his deliveries on point, he is an added threat in set-piece situations, which United could always do with, in games.
The pathway is available for the 22-year old to shine, and there is a precedent at United – for making it to the first eleven and establishing as a first team member – after going on multiple spells out of Manchester United early on in the career; Pereira can take a cue from the now established Lingard by finally making his mark at Manchester United after enduring and thriving in loan moves, starting from the game against Leicester City next week.