Last week, Manchester United confirmed that Andreas Pereira was heading out to Valencia on loan, after extending his contract until 2019. Supporters were surprised by this news after being assured that the young midfielder was very much in Jose Mourinho’s plans for the season ahead.
The manager has claimed that Pereira has the potential to be one of the “future great players of this club” and many fans are in agreement.
Having impressed on loan for Granada last season, Pereira enjoyed a successful pre-season and looked to be among the players who would feature for United in the cup competitions, and possibly as a substitute in the league.
Nemanja Matic, Paul Pogba, Ander Herrera, Marouane Fellaini and Michael Carrick were all ahead of him in pecking order though, so you could understand why he would seek regular playing time elsewhere. He’s yet to have an international call up but if he plays every week at Valencia, and plays well, it’s a possibility he could be on a flight to Russia next summer.
Pereira’s chances of playing at next summer’s World Cup are slim at Valencia, but the likelihood of him being named in Brazil’s squad would be impossible if he stayed at United. He has represented Brazil at U-23 and U-20 level, representing the country of his father, Marcos Pereira. Before that, he played for his country of birth, Belgium, at U-15, U-16 and U-17 level.
Pereira is only 21, so he has plenty of international tournaments ahead of him if he fulfils his potential, but he can’t be criticised for wanting to play on the big stage sooner rather than later.
Yet Mourinho has voiced his frustration at Pereira choosing to leave Manchester this summer, insisting the youngster should have fought for his place in the squad.
Some might argue that the manger is being unfair here. It would benefit United if Pereira stuck around, ready to fill the gap that any injured or suspended player left, but Pereira is entitled to put himself first, especially in a World Cup year.
To ask a player, at such a young age, to spend a year of his career warming the bench, at best, is a lot, especially when the offer has been made for regular football elsewhere.
Last season’s Sir Matt Busby Player of the Year, Ander Herrera, has had just five minutes of playing time so far this season. Pereira is Herrera’s understudy, so if the main man can’t get in to the team, it’s understandable that the youngster would look for other opportunities.
Yet Mourinho’s priority is to build the strongest squad he can and Pereira was clearly part of his vision.
Ahead of United’s away game against Stoke, where Mourinho may well employ a three-man midfield, the manager voiced his disappointment at Pereira’s decision to youngster to stay, insisting on a clause that would allow Pereira to re-join the team in January if needs be, and was disappointed that the midfielder chose to leave for La Liga.
“His was a personal decision that I don’t agree with, a decision I don’t think honestly is the best decision for him, a decision that disappoints me,” Mourinho said during Friday’s press conference.
“He has the potential to be fighting for a position, fighting for opportunities and fighting to be a Manchester United player. His decision can be considered to be about a young player who wants to play every weekend, but also a young player that is not ready to fight for something difficult. It’s difficult to play in Manchester United’s midfield. You have to be ready to fight for the position and I am disappointed he left.”
By next summer, any frustration that Mourinho may now feel will have hopefully subsided.
If Pereira has a great season for Valencia, then he should be able to walk in to United’s team. Carrick will have likely retired ahead of next season and Fellaini, whose contract expires next summer, will probably leave.
Yet there is the worry that Mourinho will revert to type and behave in an unreasonable way. You only have to look at Eva Carneiro, who fulfilled her duty of going on to the field to tend to Eden Hazard at Chelsea, to see how Mourinho deals with people who go against what he wants.
Pereira’s decision to defy Mourinho’s wish of him staying at Old Trafford, even if for his own personal development, is likely to go unforgotten by the manager. He’s a big fan of loyalty and players who will put the cause ahead of themselves, which leaves Pereira with a black mark against his name.
But United will feel cautious when it comes to allowing a potentially world-class player to leave the club before they’ve fulfilled their potential, following Pogba’s exit from the club in 2012.
Pereira isn’t at the level Pogba was but there’s every reason to believe that he can make a name for himself for a top club in Europe.
With Liverpool, Chelsea and Arsenal all keen to sign Pereira as a 15-year-old, Sir Alex Ferguson convinced the teenager to make the move to United.
“Manchester United is my dream team to play for,” the youngster said at the time.
Pereira has signalled that his immediate priority is making it as a football player, rather than a United player, which he’s fully entitled to do. But if he struggles at Valencia and fails to make it to the World Cup, he may well live to regret the decision to defy Mourinho.