Andreas Pereira faces Manchester United sliding doors moment
With regards to Andreas Pereira, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer made two big statements over the summer and they both came at the start of July, with a whole month remaining in the transfer window.
The Manchester United boss named the Brazilian and Scott McTominay as two replacements for Ander Herrera, the outgoing midfielder who joined Paris Saint-Germain after his contract was allowed to run down.
“Andy I expect a lot more from,” Solskjaer told journalists during the Australia leg of United’s pre-season tour.
“Scotty I expect a lot more from. 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.”
That was after Pereira had been handed a healthy new contract, a four-year deal with the option of an extra year to be precise, with United’s intentions seemingly crystal clear. Perhaps it was obvious even back then that they wouldn’t bolster their midfield ranks in the summer, despite a clamour from supporters to do so.
And so here we are. The “maybe” from Solskjaer was superfluous. Pereira has moved from fringe player to first-teamer without ever really knocking down the door, save for an eye-catching goal against Southampton last season and a few other glimpses here and there.
That new role has been reflected in his game-time this season. Pereira has started five of United’s seven Premier League games and was rested entirely from their Europa League clash with Astana, reinforcing his first team status.
Solskjaer is making good on his promise to develop the 23-year-old as a United player.
Yet the offerings have been meagre from Pereira, apart from one fine assist for Anthony Martial in United’s opening day destruction of Chelsea.
He’s actually been a right-wing replacement rather than a midfield option, playing there seemingly because United have so few alternatives.
The recent clash with Arsenal captured the best and worst of Pereira in microcosm. There was a moment in the first half when he skipped merrily inside off his right wing, slalomed past an Arsenal challenge or two and shot on target with his left foot. Bernd Leno saved it, but the applause around Old Trafford reflected one of the game’s few moments of quality.
In truth, it was a little surprising that it came from the otherwise peripheral Pereira, who was dragged off by Solskjaer on 74 minutes, as he was against Chelsea (at the same stage) and Southampton (on 68 minutes) after similarly fluctuating performances.
There will be many who believe Solskjaer has put too much faith in Pereira. It is true that his opportunities have come his way through necessity rather than design, but he has the belief of the Norwegian and it’s hard to doubt his talent either after passages of play like that one that almost carved the Gunners apart. Other silky touches and intelligent passes suggest there is a serious player there.
The problem is that United can ill afford such inconsistencies in their team every week — when so many other areas of their side are in flux.
Think about the mercurial United players of bygone seasons: Anderson, Nani, Dimitar Berbatov — they won titles because they were smartly used by Sir Alex Ferguson. They didn’t always play every week like Pereira is being asked to.
Consistency will either make or break Pereira in a United shirt, but he has the luxury of his manager’s backing and so few credible challengers to his role in the squad.
So if it’s competition for places that usually spurs players on to new heights, maybe that won’t work here. Instead, Pereira has no choice but to carry the responsibility Solskjaer has placed on his shoulders. McTominay is doing it in the absence of Herrera, now Pereira must follow suit.
His performances over the next few months will certainly change the course of his career, for better or for worse.
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