Andreas Pereira’s Manchester United role for the season explained – Dominic Booth
There is a tendency for niggling negative ‘takes’ to sneak through into the post-match compendium of opinions after a win like Manchester United‘s on Sunday.
Such was the swell of positivity, it was almost like some supporters were scared of feeling relentlessly optimistic for fear of a jinx. As if a horrid hoodoo of black magic could descend on this young vibrant team who had played so well and without any fear.
That’s possibly to be expected, given the way United ended last season and the turbulent transfer window that has just passed.
Still, it was a surprise to see some negative press from some sections of the United support directed towards Andreas Pereira and Luke Shaw, whose contributions were deemed inferior compared to their illustrious teammates.
Leaving aside Shaw, who can certainly play better than he showed against Chelsea (perhaps fearful of his former manager Jose Mourinho watching on from the Sky studio), it’s interesting that Pereira copped for some flak. He got an assist, remember, and did well enough to merit praise considering he was, in effect United’s 11th man when it came to team selection.
Feelings of surprise bounced around ‘United Twitter’ when the teamsheets were released at 3.30pm on Sunday. Plenty expressed disappointment that Daniel James, Mason Greenwood and even Juan Mata had been omitted at the expense of the Brazilian. Pereira endured a difficult opening 20 minutes or so in which he ceded possession too easily, to give fuel to those pre-match groans.
The truth is that he had neither a particularly good match — despite his assist for Anthony Martial’s goal — nor a catastrophic one. The statistics back that up.
He had a pass success rate of 73 per cent, which was the second lowest of all the players to start the game after Marcus Rashford. Most would accept that’s not good enough for United’s nominal No.10 on the day. He generally failed to stamp his mark on the game, despite making two tackles (the same as Paul Pogba and Jorgingho managed between them) and improving after a poor first half.
But this is not to say Pereira doesn’t have a role to play for United this season.
In actual fact along with Scott McTominay he can be one of the beneficiaries of United’s slightly baffling decision not to bolster their midfield ranks in the summer.
Ander Herrera’s replacement never arrived over the summer and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said before the season started he expected “a lot more” from Pereira and McTominay.
“Andy I expect a lot more from, Scotty I expect a lot more from,” said the Norwegian. “Those two between them had maybe 15, 20 starts last season. You expect them to have at least 20 each this season, maybe even more.
“That’s maybe two players into one that can replace Ander.”
So perhaps Pereira isn’t yet in a position to become a mainstay of the United midfield. It’s very possible that Solskjaer may omit him in favour of James, Greenwood or Mata against teams who are intent on sitting back, in games where United don’t require a genuine midfield three.
But Solskjaer is right to promise game time for the 23-year-old, who has done his time in the reserves and out on loan in the past few seasons and was rewarded with a new contract over the summer.
Stability is key in the minds of Solskjaer, Mike Phelan and company in the United coaching staff and so is opportunity. Pereira will get plenty of both from his bosses, which in turn will mean time and space to thrive.
After a mixed start to the season opener which saw the best and worst of Pereira, it will be up to him to grab his chance and keep improving.