With Andreas Pereira turning 24 in January, it is seemingly make-or-break time for the Brazilian at Manchester United.
With Paul Pogba injured and Jesse Lingard out of form, the midfielder has become Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s first choice in the number ten role.
Pereira has started all but three of United’s games this season, but has registered just one assist and one goal, through a deflected effort against Brighton.
His work rate cannot be faulted by the Old Trafford faithful, but his lack of end product is starting to become a concern.
Pereira is often excused for his lack of goal contributions because he is a ‘young player’ but at 23, with experience on loan at Valencia, and a full season in the first team at United last year, it is time he showed some progress.
When compared to the other number tens in the league, Pereira’s statistics are frighteningly inferior.
Mason Mount, who has been a regular at Chelsea this season, has managed four goals and two assists in all competitions.
James Maddison, who United are often linked with, has recorded six goals and two assists for Leicester City.
Out-of-form Tottenham man Dele Alli has also bettered Pereira’s record, with two goals and one assist – in three fewer games than the Brazillian international too.
Even Phil Foden, who is on the peripherals of the Manchester City squad and is yet to start a Premier League game this season, has managed to equal Pereira’s record of one goal and one assist.
In short, the United midfielder’s game is seriously lacking meaningful contributions, and at the moment that is exactly what the team needs.
When Pogba returns from injury in December, he will more than likely take the place of Pereira in the starting team – Scott McTominay and Fred are beginning to form an understanding in the holding midfield roles, and Solskjaer will not want to disrupt that.
With Daniel James now a regular on the right wing, Pereira will be shunted down the pecking order when Pogba returns – the former PSV Eindhoven youth player has been played on the wing and as a central midfielder before at United, but with a fully fit squad he is unlikely to start in any of those positions.
With younger players such as Mason Greenwood, Angel Gomes, James Garner, and Tahith Chong also breaking into the first team in Pereira’s favoured positions, his chances are only going to become more limited in the future.
Such is the nature of modern football, it may be the case that Pereira only has until Pogba’s return to prove he is good enough for United.
If he is unable to add to his goal involvements in the next month, he will gradually fade out the first-team picture at United before being replaced in the summer – perhaps by a player like Maddison.
Maddison is rated highly by those at United, and is a player that fits into Solskjaer’s philosophy – so Pereira would need to have a sensational finish to the season to prove that he is better suited to the number ten role than the Englishman.
Even if Maddison does join United, Pereira may still have a future at the club – his versatility and work ethic could be useful to have within the squad.
But ultimately it will be down to Pereira himself and his desire to play regular football – if he loses that at United, he may have to kickstart his career elsewhere.
Alternatively, he could prove his doubters wrong and start performing at the level required at United – either way, his performances over the next six months will dictate his future.