It’s been an odd start to Andreas Pereira’s Manchester United career. After rising through the club’s youth academy, the 22-year-old has failed to draw the attention of whichever manager was in charge.
Pereira began his United career in a more attacking position of the field, either being deployed in a number ten role or on either flank.
It is in these positions the young Brazilian also featured during his loan spells at Granada and Valencia. But upon his return to the Red Devils, it seems he has undertaken a whole new set of responsibilities.
United boss Jose Mourinho recently broke the news Pereira had been training with the senior team as a deep-lying central midfielder – following the guidance of the recently-retired Michael Carrick.
Despite bolstering their midfield in the signing of Fred, United could still be without major stars come the start of the season, due to their commitments at this year’s World Cup.
Jose also recently announced midfield anchor Nemanja Matic will miss the beginning of the campaign due to a medical procedure he has undergone, leaving the holding role in midfield vacant.
Places in Jose’s starting XI are still up for grabs for the side’s opening Premier League game against Leicester.
Could Pereira start for United as a six in this game? Let’s take a look:
His Pre-season Stats
Previous pre-season tours have been Pereira’s only major source of game time for United in recent years. However, even in those tours, the Belgium/Brazilian native has impressed. But it was clearly not enough to earn him a regular role in United’s first-team.
In United’s four pre-season games so far, Pereira has excelled after adopting the role of defensive midfielder, occasionally featuring on the left of a midfield three.
The 22-year-old has played no less than 85 minutes in any of the four games so far in pre-season, showing Jose’s instilled trust in him.
Pereira has shown a clear improvement in his maturity. He’s made the most passes (239) of any United player, along with the joint-most tackles won (ten) and second most key passes made (six).
During the first three games of the tour, Pereira even completed 100% of all dribbles made.
How He’s Been used
Pereira has operated at the base of a midfield three, sitting back and dictating the attack from deep.
The 22-year-old offers a range of passing options for United, making backward passes to defenders, sideways to wing-backs, and even lobbing balls behind the opposition’s defence for United’s pacey attack to run onto.
The below picture shows Pereira on the ball against AC Milan. Here, Pereira sits well within his own half but makes a 60+yard pass in behind the Milan defence for Juan Mata and Matteo Darmian to run onto.
Pereira has also proven himself an incredible asset to have from set-pieces. He scored an absolute belter from 35 yards against Liverpool and his delivery from wide areas and corners has been exceptional.
However, when he’s not taking the free-kick himself, he still maintains his deep-lying role in midfield.
The below picture shows Pereira (next to the ref), who despite his team-mates flooding the box to get on the end of Sanchez’s ball, stays in the middle of the park outside the box, in the perfect position to take a shot at goal or deliver passes to United’s wide men.
During United’s disappointing loss to Liverpool in their most recent game, Pereira was a diamond in the rough.
Jurgen Klopp’s teams are notorious for their relentless pressing. This was the perfect test for Pereira to show how he coped with being under immense pressure.
Pereira danced around many who challenged him, using his tight-knit dribbling to turn away from his opposition and pass the ball to safety.
Typically, we’ve seen United players use brute strength in getting the better of their opponents. Having a player whose technical ability is what helps them stay composed and maintain possession will be a welcomed addition to United’s midfield.
So, does Pereira deserve to start against Leicester? There’s no reason why he can’t. He’s arguably been United’s breakthrough star during pre-season.
Especially with Nemanja Matic and Paul Pogba’s likely absence from the opening games, it’s hard to imagine Jose Mourinho putting all that game-time and coaching to waste.
It seems as though Pereira’s transition into a deep-lying midfielder is a project Jose is willing to invest time and effort into. Whether this is just a short-term fix while his key stars are out during pre-season is yet to be seen.
Either way, it would great to see Pereira given the opportunity he has been starved of in recent years. Under Carrick’s wing, he has all the tools to fulfill his potential.