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.
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.
”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.
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.
“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.”
“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.