Manchester United

Has Pereira done enough to secure long-term United future?

 • by Ryan Baldi
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News broke this week of Manchester United having taken up the option to extend Andreas Pereira’s contract by one year, meaning his current deal at Old Trafford now runs up until the summer of 2020.

This was always a formality, though, a case of the club protecting the value of an asset: Pereira’s contract was due to expire at the end of this season, and unlike 34-year-old Antonio Valencia, whose deal will be allowed to expire in June, at 23, the Belgium-born Brazil international still has resale value worth ring-fencing and potential yet to be fully harnessed.

But has Pereira done enough to inspire belief that he has a long-term future at Old Trafford?

Pereira defied the wishes of José Mourinho to spend last season on loan with Valencia, and it appeared the Portuguese managed had run out of patience with the young playmaker earlier this term.

After returning to his parent club last summer, Pereira was part of United’s travelling pre-season squad and even started the first two Premier League games of 2018/19.

But an error-strewn performance in August’s defeat to Brighton & Hove Albion saw Pereira substituted at half-time, rarely seen again under the former Chelsea and Real Madrid boss.

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Signed from PSV as a 16-year-old, Pereira stood out in United’s age-group sides, starring as a versatile and creative attacking midfielder, comfortable out wide or as a No.10.

The young Pereira had plenty in his locker: a dead-ball specialist; a goal threat through shots from range and well-timed entries into the penalty area; a fine passer and intelligent creator of chances. And a stunning free-kick goal in his senior debut, a League Cup win over Ipswich Town in 2015, seemed to signify the midfielder was set for a bright future at Old Trafford.

Now 23, though, it is fair to say that most who were confident in Pereira’s potential as a teenager would have expected him to be further along in his development, whether with United or elsewhere.

But the one-cap Brazil international’s progress has been kick-started since Ole Gunnar Solskjær was installed as Mourinho’s replacement in December.

Pereira has made eight appearances under the caretaker manager, including five starts. And the faith Solskjær has in him was evidenced by how it was Pereira who was summoned from the bench to replace the injured Ander Herrera 20 minutes into United’s 0-0 draw with Liverpool in February, while £47million summer signing Fred remained an unused substitute.

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A first Premier League goal arrived in spectacular style the following week, the midfielder bending a sumptuous 25-yard strike into the top corner against Southampton; Pereira also provided an assist in the 3-2 victory.

Mourinho had tended to deploy Pereira as the deepest midfielder, a stand-in for Nemanja Matić at the base of the middle third. This is a deeper role than any he featured in as he progressed through United’s academy or during loans spells in Spain with Granada and Valencia.

Still liable to over-elaboration and often eschewing obvious, simple passes in favour of a more risky through-ball, Pereira’s occasional sloppiness in possession made him a risk in the deep-lying role.

But Solskjær has freed Pereira up to play slightly further forward, and the midfielder looks much more comfortable as a result.

Still far from the finished product and unlikely to threaten the starting XI when Solskjær has a full-strength squad to choose from, Pereira remains work in progress. But he has shown enough in recent weeks to suggest he is deserving of time and patience.

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