With Manchester United’s pre-season tour of the United States done and dusted, Jose Mourinho’s team have just one more friendly to play before their season starts. A trip to the Allianz Arena will see United take on German champions Bayern Munich, having already faced touch opposition including Real Madrid, Liverpool and AC Milan.
The manager has cut a largely disappointed figure throughout the summer, claiming he wouldn’t part with his cash to watch United’s makeshift teams in action. As is the risk whenever there is a summer, several key players were missing after being given longer holidays following the World Cup.
Paul Pogba, who lifted the trophy with France, has been given some well deserved time off. While the English and Belgian players, who reached the semi-finals, also were given an extended break, meaning United were without Romelu Lukaku, Marcus Rashford, Jesse Lingard, Phil Jones and Ashley Young. The likes of David de Gea and Nemanja Matic rejoined the squad late on too.
In their absence, one player to shine has been Andreas Pereira, who has had more game time than anyone else in the team. The Brazilian was deployed in a no.6 role and racked up 443 minutes across the five games and performed well.
United’s game went to penalties, which United eventually won 9-8, with Pereira scoring two from the spot. In the next game, Pereira scored a fantastic freekick in his team’s defeat against Liverpool, and was spotted barking at James Milner early on. Try telling him it was only a friendly!
In the final game, United beat current European champions Real Madrid, with Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale playing, and Pereira again had the fans cooing as he managed to keep the ball with sublime skill with three opposition players closing him down .
Not long ago, United fans had to fear whether Pereira had a future at the club though, after going against Mourinho’s wishes last summer and agreeing to join Valencia on loan.
Having spent the previous season with Granada, Mourinho wanted Pereira with the United squad for the campaign ahead, but the Brazilian knew his playing time would likely be limited so made the brave move to accept Valencia’s offer.
He played close to 30 games for the La Liga outfit, something he couldn’t have hoped for at United, and claimed three assists and one goal.
“United now have a better player because I went to Valencia,” Pereira told The National. “I played more minutes than I would have played at United. At Valencia I was playing a high level every week and I improved a lot. I was under pressure in a good way, I played in a team which played very good football with an explosive counter attack. I’m more mature for my experience of being there. I read the game faster now. I prepare for the games better, I know my body better and know what I can do. I don’t make the mistakes I was making before. I’m getting better all the time.”
At the time, Mourinho claimed he was “disappointed” with Pereira’s decision, insisting that the midfielder should be “fighting to be a Manchester United player”. There were fears that the manager, not known for being particularly forgiving, may well sell Pereira this summer.
Thankfully, it is now apparent that the player is in Mourinho’s plans and that the pair have been communicating throughout Pereira’s loan period.
“Jose Mourinho was always in touch and sending me messages,” Pereira revealed. “It was nice that he kept in touch with me and showed that he had faith in me. I want to repay that faith. I think I can make the step now to play every week at Manchester United.”
Pereira will have strong competition for his place in the team though, with Paul Pogba, Fred, Ander Herrera and Marouane Fellaini all vying for one of the limited spots in midfield. Scott McTominay, who Mourinho named as his player of the season, will also be in with a shout and it’s unlikely that his efforts from last season will be forgotten.
But Pereira has begun to realise the potential that supporters knew he had and, with Mourinho on his side, may well have an important role to play in the season ahead.
Pereira has been at the club for seven years, first meeting Sir Alex Ferguson and agreeing to sign when he was just 15. Ferguson greeted him in Portuguese, a small detail that impressed the teenager. “It made me want to go to United straight away,” he said. “I wanted to sign immediately and stay there. So, I did stay. And from then I never wanted to go anywhere else.”
He revealed at the time that it was his dream to sign for United and since signing for the club when he turned 16, has had supporters talking. He impressed at youth level, winning the league with the U-21s on a couple of occasions, as well as being voted player of the year.
Now, aged 22, he has the opportunity to make his mark on the first team. Mourinho claimed last year that Pereira had to fight for his spot and it appears as though he is now ready to do that.