It has been a mixed season for Andreas Pereira following his genuine breakthrough into the Manchester United first-team squad.
Having made 23 appearances last season the midfielder was tipped by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to help fill the void left by Ander Herrera last summer, but nobody quite expected him to have the role which he has.
With United failing to add any reinforcement to their midfield a year ago, Pereira was issued an more prominent role at Old Trafford, which has seen him feature 40 times across all competitions. In fact, prior to lockdown only Harry Maguire and Fred had played more minutes than Pereira this season, though the midfielder soon paid the price for the club’s over-reliance on him.
Injuries to Paul Pogba and Scott McTominay furthered the burden on Pereira and quickly he became one of few midfield options to Solskjaer, a role which he simply wasn’t ready for.
Fan frustrations towards Pereira can be understood for some of his poor performances under Solskjaer this season, but the main issue is that United became reliant on starting a squad player because they failed to sign anybody else.
Pereira’s struggles at Old Trafford have been more about the wider transfer failings at the club, and with Bruno Fernandes and Pogba now in the midfield the 24-year-old is showing signs of promise in his new reduced role.
The midweek victory over LASK Linz was just about the best we have seen from Pereira in a United shirt, and although the opposition weren’t of the highest standard it was certainly a step in the right direction.
Even though it was a dead-rubber Europa League tie, it should be seen as encouragement Pereira played so well in his 26 minute cameo on a night where other more recognisable first-teamers failed to make much of an impression.
Next season United will be playing two games a week as standard, and it is against the lesser opposition where Pereira will come into his own and ease the load on someone like Fernandes. It is also credit to the Belgian-born midfielder that he has risen to the challenge of losing his regular place on the pitch.
Out of the intense spotlight he has been able to rediscover the confidence and freedom which led to his ‘pre-season Pirlo’ nickname on social media. When the pressure is off Pereira plays at his best, and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
Yes, he might not be a key player when it comes to the really important matches next season, but unlike others, he actually relishes the opportunity to play against lesser opposition becomes it quite often suits his playing style.
If Pereira is ever to really become first-team quality at United it is in these cup competitions where he will need to build his confidence, and he already deserves credit for the response which he has issued.
Many players would have wilted under the unquestionable loss of confidence and vile social media abuse, but Pereira is continuing to fight for the badge which he is so desperate to do proud.
Fans might need to accept this Brazilian playmaker will never quite be their own Ronaldinho, but in a reduced role he can certainly discovered his own samba swagger.