Andreas Pereira was one of the most impressive performers during a gloomy pre-season tour for Manchester United. The season looked like the one where the Brazilian would eventually breakthrough at Old Trafford. But Jose Mourinho binned him as soon as he had his first bad game and since then it has only been a frustration for him. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s appointment came as a fresh lease of life for the 23-year-old. But Pereira did little in his first start against Reading to quell fears that he would never make it at Manchester United. The FA Cup and the quality of opposition were perfect for him to stake his claim but he failed to stamp his mark. A tactical analysis based on his statistics against Reading will clearly show that Solskjaer would not think twice about turning to Paul Pogba, Nemanja Matic and Ander Herrera against Tottenham on Sunday.
Andreas Pereira’s failure to dominate a poor Championship midfield
Reading are 23rd in the Championship for a reason. They are a poor team and are being rightly backed to drop down to League One at the end of the season. But on Saturday, the Royals looked like a competent outfit. They dominated Manchester United for large portions of the game and made them look average. Solskjaer took the blame on himself for changing the team too much. But there were international quality players on the pitch and they should have been more comfortable.
One of the key reasons behind Manchester United’s poor performance was the midfield. Pereira, Fred and Scott McTominay provided no control to proceedings in the middle of the park. Pereira himself looked uncharacteristically off-colour. The Brazilian’s ability to spray the ball around is a key facet of his game. However, he only completed 78 per cent of his passes. He misplaced simple balls and often looked hurried. The lack of control from the depth of the midfield meant Manchester United never took hold of the game. Pereira was making uncharacteristic mistakes on the ball. He played only one accurate through ball, a poor number for a player known for his ability on the ball.
The Brazilian also lost the ball too many times while in possession. The midfielder was dispossessed five times by a Reading team, who have failed to produce in the second tier of English football.
A complete lack of control
The lack of control from Pereira meant Manchester United were struggling to get a hold of the ball. The midfield’s underperformance must worry Solskjaer, who would need his squad to step up in the next few months.
A look at his heat-map will show that he was all over the place in midfield. Pereira looked dazed and confused about what he wanted to do on the pitch. One of the features of the Manchester United team under Solskajer has been the control provided from midfield. Pogba, Matic and Herrera had close to 100 touches on the ball during most games. Compared to those numbers, Pereira had only 58 touches on the ball. His midfield partners did not much better as well.
Andreas Pereira did little to protect the defence
The Brazilian won only two of four attempted tackles in a game where Manchester United never had any control. Pereira provided little defensive cover or protected the defenders as a midfield screener. He regularly lost balls in key areas, which exerted more pressure on the defenders than it should have in a game against Reading. It was only down to the away side’s lack of quality in the final third that earned a clean sheet for the Old Trafford-outfit.
His lack of defensive contribution was underlined by the fact that he had no interceptions during the game. Reading played around him and Pereira looked flummoxed against a poor Championship side.
Solskjaer will have little hesitation in dropping Pereira back to the bench against Tottenham on Sunday.
What’s ahead for Andreas Pereira?
Pereira has squandered a golden opportunity to become more than a squad player. Pogba, Matic and Herrera are expected to be back in the team for Manchester United’s trip to Wembley. The Brazilian will have to bide his time for some time after the FA Cup clash to get one more opportunity. He did little to make Solskjaer think about giving more minutes to him. He provided no control in midfield, did little to affect the game in the final third and failed to provide any defensive nous as well. It was a poor and muted midfield performance and it will lead to a place on the bench.
But he also deserves some sympathy. He was shunted out of the squad after the first couple of weeks of the season and it is certain that his confidence has taken a beating. Pereira looked circumspect against Reading and played with the weight of the world on his shoulders. His future at Manchester United will depend on how Solskjaer manages to rebuild the Brazilian’s confidence. There are murmurs that he could again be sent out on loan in January. But that could mean the end of his time at Manchester United as well. He effectively has 18 months left to run on his current contract with the club.
The next few months are crucial for Pereira’s future at Manchester United. He either proves his worth at Old Trafford or leaves the club next summer. Solskjaer will provide more opportunities to him as he will need the squad depth. But Pereira cannot afford another game like Reading. The next time he starts for the club, no matter the opposition, the Brazilian will need to assert his quality or risk perishing under the spotlight. There are no question marks over his quality or ability. But the challenge for him is to prove that he can put in seven out of ten performances on most weeks.
Performing on loan at Valencia is a world apart from the expectations at Manchester United. The fans do have time for him as he is an academy product. But soon the manager or the future manager will have to take a call on his future at the club. It is up to Pereira to make sure that the dice roll out in favour of him.
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