There won’t be too many tears shed when Andreas Pereira departs Manchester United on loan later this week.
Frustrated by a lack of playing time since the arrival of Bruno Fernandes and return of Paul Pogba, the Belgian-born Brazilian knew he’d have to leave Old Trafford if he wanted regular first-team football. Donny van de Beek’s signing was the final nail in the coffin.
Pereira does deserve credit for the role he played at United last season, with the 24-year-old tasked with the hefty task of replacing the departed Ander Herrera a year ago.
Prior to lockdown only Harry Maguire and Fred had played more minutes than Pereira last season, with injuries to Pogba and Scott McTominay amplifying the pressure on the youngster, something he simply wasn’t ready for.
Fan frustrations towards Pereira can be understood given his poor performances over the last year, but the main issue was that United became reliant on starting a squad player because they failed to sign anybody else. This summer they have addressed that with the arrival of Van de Beek, but it means Pereira is now craving the extensive game time he had never had before.
United fans won’t begrudge the loss of a squad player, but they have every right to question why he is now considered surplus to requirements just 14 months after signing a new four-year deal at the club.
At the time of signing his new contract Pereira had entered the last year on his previous deal, so it makes some sense why United wanted to protect his valuation ahead of a season in which he was expected to play more than ever, although the length of the deal remains odd.
“Andreas has become an important member of the squad with his energy and hard work in midfield,” Solskjaer said upon the contract announcement. “He works non-stop every day in training, has a great character and knows what he has to do to continue his development here.”
It was a decision taken to ensure they didn’t lose Pereira for nothing this summer, yet a year on and they are happily loaning him out because he no longer has a role to play in the first-team squad.
United are fortunate they found a suitor for Pereira this transfer window, but they know it won’t be such an easy task to shift other unwanted players still sat on the sale rail before the deadline next Monday.
Phil Jones was another player rewarded with a new long-term deal at United last year which makes the job of moving him on anytime soon even harder than it was to begin with, while Marcos Rojos and Sergio Romero are both also contracted to the club until next summer.
Juan Mata and Jesse Lingard could both also leave for free when their current deals expire at the end of the season, although the club have the option of a further year to trigger in each of those instances.
United are desperate to cut the size of their squad over the next two transfer windows and know their gradual squad overhaul can’t continue until they have trimmed the fat which is currently occupying the fringes. Letting players go for free might reflect bad business considering the initial outlay on getting them to move to Old Trafford, but going forward the club need to ensure they don’t hand out long-term contract extensions as freely as they did a year ago.
The potential success of Pereira’s anticipated loan move to Lazio could eventually justify why he was rewarded, but it would take an almighty turnaround for Phil Jones’ four-and-a-half-year extension to ever be viewed with similar approval.
Both players should have been free to leave this summer, instead United are paying the price.