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Joel Pereira at the Aon Training Complex.

Why United's Academy was right for Pereira

It was 2012 when Joel Pereira decided to head to Manchester United and develop his burgeoning goalkeeping skills with one of the biggest clubs in the world.

Tipped by many, including Jose Mourinho, to one day become a full international with Portugal, it was his form in Switzerland that led to his big break and the opportunity to learn at the Reds’ fabled Academy. The boy from Boudevilliers made his choice and has not looked back since.

Aged 21 (he has turned 22 today, Thursday), he spent the season working with David De Gea and Sergio Romero, being part of the first-team squad and coming off the bench in the League Cup win over Burton Albion. The contract he signed last summer indicates that he is seen as very much part of the future at United and the switch from Neuchetal Xamax has clearly paid off.
Joel Pereira in Under-21 international action for Portugal.
Joel Pereira in Under-21 international action for Portugal.

”It came about when I played a game with Switzerland [youth team] and I had a few scouts who came to my agent with offers from different clubs,” Pereira told ManUtd.com. “I think United are the team that stood out the most. My agent knew a bit about how the clubs works, and a bit about the Academy here and he just told me that, for myself and my development, United was the best Academy for young players. I just thought about my future and thought United would be the best next step for me.

”When I came here, I knew straight away that’s my place where I have to be. It felt immediately like home. The staff and players welcomed me very well and it felt good. It was a good challenge for me. The club helped me straight away. I knew in January that I was coming in June and, during this six months, they prepared everything very well. The family and the house, everything. When I came, I was already settled and could just focus on football – nothing else outside of football.”

Pereira lived in digs with his namesake Andreas, who became a close friend, even if they are not related as some people believe. Charni Ekangamene, a Belgian midfielder now with Beerschot Wilrijk in his homeland, was another housemate who ensured everything went smoothly.
Joel Pereira celebrates winning the league with United's Reserves.
Joel celebrates captaining United to a dramatic Reserves league title victory under Warren Joyce.

“I don’t know if it was the club’s idea,” said the keeper. “I think, maybe, it was destiny and the best thing that could happen for both of us. We had a good relationship and, when you come to a different country at a young age, you need some good friends. It makes you feel more at home and not feel like you’re alone. We speak the same language too so it was a bit easier for me and I was also with another player, Charni Ekangamene, who speaks French. So I could speak that too and it was easier for me. I couldn’t speak a word of English so having people speak my own language made it easier.

“I had English lessons for the first two years with the teacher. It helped me a lot and United organised that very well. I also had school for the first two years and used to go twice a week with the other boys of my age group. It was good and I learned a lot. I couldn’t speak English at all and I would think, after two years, it’d be impossible for me to speak English but it came out pretty well.”

Joel Pereira waves to the fans at the end of the last Premier League match of 2017/18, against Watford.
Joel waves to the fans at the end of the last Premier League match of 2017/18, against Watford.

The Aon Training Complex might seem a daunting place for any youngster but the facilities are usually seen as a major plus for any new arrival when dealing with his new environment.

”When I first saw the training ground and everything you had there, I just thought: ‘Wow’,” he admitted. “It’s just a dream and you don’t need anything else apart from what you have at Carrington. You have everything you could imagine there. I think it’s the best environment and infrastructure for young people and everything you need, you’ve got at Carrington.

”Everything helps you. I’ve had, in the last five-and-a-half years, a lot of people helping me out – physios, sports science, people for the mind with mental work. I think, in football, you need those people around you because it’s a tough job. You need people to support you. It’s not just about playing football, there is a lot more beyond that. Goalkeepers definitely need to be tough mentally. That’s what people say. It’s tougher to be a keeper. You need a strong mentality. Well, I think I’ve got it.”

Joel Pereira may be enjoying his summer break right now but he’ll be back looking to put all this experience into practice in 2018/19.

Joel Pereira at the Aon Training Complex.
Joel Pereira has been honing his craft at the Aon Training Complex.