A forward at youth level, a winger last season on loan, and now a number six, Andreas Pereira must be used to changing positions by now.
One thing is a constant though, a desire to play. His move to go on loan to Valencia last season was motivated by wanting regular game-time – although getting only 1,078 league minutes, the equivalent of 11.98 full games, perhaps indicates that José Mourinho was right to be disappointed at the decision.
This summer, he’s shown his eagerness to please. “The manager asked me what position I will play,” he told the club website, “and I said I will play any position he would like,”
“Now I am in this position as a number six. I will try to do my best and of course everyone is helping me a lot, including the manager, by telling me what to do.”
Valencia – vindicated?
The game time that Pereira got in La Liga for Valencia last season was more than he probably would have got in the Premier League had he stayed at United, but they perhaps weren’t the regular football that the player was after.
That’s not to say it was a wasted trip. United chose not to end the loan in the January window, saying that it was a good experience, despite playing in a position (an orthodox winger) that United don’t use in their system.
However, having played in a wider position might make it easier to adapt to filling in on the right-side of United’s attack if needed, a position that doesn’t seem to be anyone’s for certain.
It may also have helped prepare him for life in the centre of midfield, having a fairly high defensive workload that led to him making 2.17 tackles per 90 minutes.
A new role?
Recasting Pereira as a central midfielder makes some sense, both for United and the player, with both being able to benefit from the increased versatility.
Pereira also has a penchant for a long pass, which he’s exhibited in United’s pre-season friendlies in America: sometimes a little over-hit, sometimes a little over-ambitious, but it’s better to be overly ambitious than not at all.
However, while he may have been defensively active at Valencia, playing as a six is a different matter entirely. It’s positioning and awareness, rather than action, that’s key, and it’s good for United that Pereira is learning from Michael Carrick, who’s on the coaching staff now.
Will he play?
Estimating how much game-time that a youth player will get in the coming campaign based on pre-season is difficult at best.
It’s promising for Pereira that Mourinho was disappointed about him going on loan last season. The manager said that it was “a decision that disappoints me a bit because he has the potential to be here fighting for his position, fighting for opportunities, to be a Manchester United player.” Presumably the same still applies now.
He’s said that he’s happy with Pereira’s performances in the two stateside pre-season games so far, saying: “Andreas is playing okay. In the first match, he was okay and today too.
“I think he has to play even more simply than what he’s doing but he has the personality to want the ball and to organise. I’m happy.”
That Mourinho seems to rate the youngster’s personality probably means that Pereira will get chances this coming year, but whether he can make it stick is another thing entirely. How he performs in pre-season might set the groundwork for that.