Andreas: How the United Academy embraced me
Andreas Pereira’s route into the United Academy is different to the likes of Jesse Lingard and Marcus Rashford, but one which is becoming increasingly common as scouts cast their gaze far and wide.
How did your journey into football begin?
“My dad [Marcos Antonio Pereira] was a professional footballer so I grew up with football in my house. I always used to see my dad train and play so I just wanted to be like him. He played for different teams and everywhere he played, I played in their academy. But I was still very young. In the last year when he played in the second division for Lommel, where we lived the most in Belgium, I really played a lot and enjoyed my football, and I went to PSV Eindhoven after that.”
When did your Manchester United Academy story begin?
“When I was 16, I joined from PSV Eindhoven. Since then I’ve felt part of a big, big family at United. They embraced me and I feel very much at home here.”
“Yeah. The first day I arrived, I met all the players and I was very nervous. I couldn’t believe it when I was in the training gear and I looked down and I saw the badge on. I thought, ‘I’m at Manchester United. I need to pinch myself.’ Then I said, ‘Now I need to work hard because I want to play in the first team and I want to get there.’ I remember the first training session, we played rugby! It was, for me, different because I had never really played it so I wasn’t used to it. It was a nice experience and it helped me to get tough.”
What were your first impressions of the Aon Training Complex?
“It was special. It’s something special even today. Today you feel there is something special in the building around you. It’s like the charisma of the club. The first team, the Reserves, the Under-18s and the people who work there all eat together. Everybody is together and, after five years at the club, I know everybody. It’s very nice and I feel at home. When I was a young boy at PSV, I just stayed with the other young boys and there was no mixing of the teams and age groups. Here, it’s a real family.”
“Paul McGuinness [former Under-18s coach] helped me out a lot when I moved here. He helped me a lot when I had just arrived and I was adapting to English football. It was more physical. When I went up to the Reserves with Warren Joyce, I think he helped me a lot because he really toughened me up and made me ready for the first team and for men’s football. So I think for me personally, Warren had the biggest impression on me and he helped me the most, really. I felt myself going from a boy into a man and a grown-up.”
Do you have a favourite memory from your time in the Academy?
“I have a few. One of them is the first game I played, against a Norwegian team. It was at The Cliff, I scored two goals, so it was something special and a very happy day for me. After that, I will never forget the first time I trained with the first team, when Scholesy was there, Giggsy… everyone was there and it was just an unbelievable experience.”
If you had to persuade a young player to join our Academy instead of another club, what would you say to them?
“I think that’s quite easy. For me, United is the biggest club in the world. We have everything. We have the best coaches, the best players, the best fans and we’re known everywhere. I think if you’re a footballer, you want to play in big stadiums like Old Trafford. I think everybody wants to play for United. This talk actually happened when Timothy Fosu-Mensah came here. I was in the Reserves and he was visiting. I didn’t know him at the time but I speak Dutch so he asked me what the club was like. He had offers from other clubs but I told him, ‘You should come here, it’s the best club in the world. Don’t even think about it. If you come here and if you work hard, you will get a chance in the first team.’ Then he came, and to this day he remembers my advice.”
Of all the players who have come through the Academy at United, who do you think is the best one?
“That’s difficult… but I would say Paul Scholes and David Beckham. Of course, you have Giggsy who was also unbelievable but I look more at the players in my position so it’s more Scholesy or Becks for me.”