Can patience with Pereira pay off?
At Old Trafford on 29 January, Andreas Pereira was robbed by Jack Cork, who proceeded to set up Ashley Barnes for the opening goal as Burnley stunned the Reds.
Ole took 12 minutes before replacing the midfielder with Jesse Lingard. Burnley doubled their lead, through Chris Wood, and it took a magnificent comeback by United to earn a 2-2 draw. Yet it was still perceived to be two points dropped and, as such, recriminations would inevitably have to take place – particularly on social media.It goes with the territory at the club, something Ole has been keen to point out. The stakes are high but so is the faith in young players. Andreas was eased back into the fold as a late substitute during the outstanding Emirates FA Cup victory at Chelsea on 18 February. Just under a week later, the 23-year-old was again required to come off the bench. And, this time, in the biggest league match of any season.
With Liverpool pushing for the title, it was an afternoon when everybody was tense and nervous – on both sides. Andreas was needed to help an injury-hit side and played his part as a 0-0 stalemate ensued. There was no time on the ball for anybody and he was thrown in to the most frenetic of situations but responded positively.
This is because Andreas has been honing his talents ever since joining the club from PSV Eindhoven as a promising 16-year-old. The amount of work that takes place with any one individual is phenomenal and all builds up to the time when he is required to make his mark in the first team.
After a delay due to international clearance, his Under-18s debut in 2012 was abandoned in the first half due to bad weather. A first senior outing came in the most difficult of environments, a heavy 4-0 defeat to Milton Keynes Dons in the League Cup, playing in a much-changed side. A year-long loan with Granada in Spain. Another season away with Valencia. Learning to handle the demands, mental and physical, of playing at the highest level.
Building and building his experience, he came back to United determined to push for a place and was impressive in pre-season, scoring a wonderful free-kick against Liverpool. Yet nobody is the finished article at such an early stage of their senior career. Now 23, Andreas Pereira is still a work in progress.
On Saturday, the stars finally aligned for the Brazilian. Ole suggested afterwards he has maybe found a more suitable position in midfield for the Academy graduate – not playing at the base of a diamond or in a holding role but operating further forward, where his creativity can be exploited.He took the bull by the horns with the team surprisingly behind to Southampton. Against Liverpool, he had shown his passion by whipping up the crowd when winning a corner in front of the Stretford End but that was nothing compared to his reaction to the superb strike that levelled the score at 1-1 against the Saints.
Was there pressure on him in that one moment? Absolutely. The decision to ignore Luke Shaw’s overlap down the left flank and instead turn inside was initially met with groans of frustration from some in the crowd. But Andreas backed his ability, knew he had the talent to find the angle with his right foot and delivered the most precise of bending, venomous drives past Angus Gunn.
This is high-stakes football. It all means so much and that much was evident in the player’s celebration, as he roared with a mixture of relief and ecstasy. Soon afterwards, he won a ball he had no right to collect and set up Romelu Lukaku’s strike. This is what he is capable of, anybody who has followed his progress carefully knows that to be the case.But young players need to be trusted. In his MUTV interview after the game, Andreas thanked Ole for the faith shown in him. After all, the Norwegian handed him his first minutes on the pitch, following eight league matches on the sidelines and not making the bench, during his very first game in charge, at Cardiff City. It was a first outing since coming on for the last couple of minutes at Chelsea on 20 October.
There is every chance he could be involved again on Wednesday at Paris Saint-Germain, particularly with Paul Pogba suspended, against some of the top individuals in the world game. An even bigger stage, an even bigger challenge. Knockout Champions League football at the Parc des Princes and the Reds two goals adrift.
When Andreas Pereira signed for United, he was rated as one of the best midfielders of his age group in Europe. So much time and energy has been invested in him since then, including making him captain, developing his leadership skills and expecting him to shine at the Milk Cup when he was the oldest player in the tournament. Lots of work, from those at the club and, certainly Andreas himself, to get into the position where he is competing for a spot in the first team on a regular basis.
So don’t be surprised when a player is not judged within the club on one split-second of action on the pitch. Patience has to be a virtue with all players being promoted from the ranks, even if it is a virtue sadly lacking in a lot of places these days.
The tests will keep coming for the Belgium-born talent this season. Time will tell if he can hold down a regular spot, particularly when some of his team-mates return from injury. One thing that is for sure is it will not be for want of trying, or because he has not had the chance to repay that faith from his manager.
The opinions in this story are personal to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Manchester United Football Club.
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