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As I sit typing this article it is the day after Manchester United narrowly avoided humiliation on a grand scale by scraping past League One Rochdale in the Carabao Cup. Manchester United fans are mixed in their opinions on whether or not Solskjaer should be given time with regards the development of the Manchester United youth program, or whether the board should cut their losses now and make yet another managerial change.
Integral to OGS’s chances of survival would appear to be the development of players such as Andreas Pereira. Pereira plays as a midfielder having slowly been converted from a striker in his early days. Although now aged 23, he is still seen as a player ‘with potential’ even though he has less than 30 appearances for Manchester United to show for his eight years at the club.
As Manchester United’s less than convincing first full season under OGS continues to rumble on, it is clear that Pereira, amongst others, is facing a crossroads in his career. Prior to the 2019-20 season, Pereira’s career had not exactly taken off in the way anticipated when Sir Alex Ferguson personally persuaded him to make the switch from PSV Eindhoven as a 15-year-old in 2011.
Making his debut in the quasi-infamous 4-0 League Cup drubbing by Milton Keynes Dons in 2014, Pereira made a single further appearance that season as a substitute in a Premier League victory over Tottenham. Seen to be frail and lacking in tactical know-how at the time, Pereira nevertheless got into double figures in terms of senior appearances the next season before leaving for a season-long loan at Granada in Spain.
This loan deal was a success as Pereira was a regular in the side throughout the season and also chipped in with a few goals from midfield. His playing style gradually morphed during this, his first extended run in senior football, from being a forward who often found himself pushed out onto either wing, to a more attacking midfield player.
Upon his return to Old Trafford in the summer of 2017, Pereira was expected to challenge for a place in the United line up. However, much to the consternation of Jose Mourinho, Pereira elected to go out of loan once more, this time to Valencia.
Answering his manager’s public criticism of his choice, Pereira stated that the move was good for him, good for Valencia, and ultimately would be good for United. Not being afraid to take his manager on in public, he went onto state that he had no intention of seeking a future away from Old Trafford, he merely wished to develop as a player and felt he was more likely to do so playing regularly in La Liga than on the United bench.
Upon returning permanently to Old Trafford a year later, Pereira was welcomed back into the fold by Mourinho, but as the nightmare of 2018-19 unfolded, and The Special One embarked on his one-man self- destruction crusade, Pereira once again found himself on the outside looking in.
It was the appointment of Solskjaer that kick-started Pereira’s United career in the second half of 2018-19, as he began his best run of games in the team., Pereira has spoken of how Solskjaer encourages him to play to his strengths as a ball-winner in the middle of the park, whilst also displaying his vision and flair.
Born in Belgium while his father, Marcos Pereira, was playing there, Andreas has dual citizenship and is so eligible to play for both his father’s nationality Brazil and the country of his birth Belgium. However, after appearing for Belgium at U15, U16 and U17 levels, he opted to pledge his allegiance to Brazil and following spells with the U20 and U23 sides, made his full international debut for Brazil against El Salvador in September 2018. In doing so Pereira made history by becoming the first player to play for Brazil having been born outside of the country.
Even at this point in his career, there is still uncertainty as to his best position. Some have argued that he has the skills in his locker to play ‘the Pogba’ role, while others contend that his talents lay in being a holding midfielder. The youngster has stated he feels he has previously suffered from being too versatile and that it would be preferable if he could concentrate on one area.
An intelligent man who speaks five languages fluently, Pereira has impressed those behind the scenes at Manchester United with his work ethic and determination. Time will tell if these attributes, combined with his undoubted skill levels, will be sufficient for him to extend his stay in Manchester. If Pereira can’t nail down a regular starting spot within the next year or two, it’s likely he will be sold with no shortage of suitors willing to sign him.