There has been a continuous debate this season over Manchester United’s midfield and one such question is that of Andreas Pereria’s position within it. The Brazillian is a versatile player that can play either as a defensive midfielder, central midfield, attacking midfielder or on the wings. We do like to put players into defined roles within a team, so do we even know his best position or the player he is trying to be?
Back in July 2018, Pereria told the National that his best position was in the role of a number six and that Jose Mourinho who was managing United at the time was the one to move him there. He was never properly given the chance to make the role his own despite impressive performances in the pre-season games as after only two games (against Leicester and Brighton) into the 2018/19 season in which Pereria played in this role, he was dropped and then only made of handful of appearances from the bench after that.
When Ole Gunnar Solskjær was appointed United manager in December 2018 after Mourinho’s time came to an end, he viewed Pereria as being further forward up the pitch in the number 10 role. Pereria had made a name for himself in this role and on the left wing whilst having loan spells with Valencia and Granada in the previous seasons. He was flattered by Ole’s comments as he told the United Review before the game against West Ham in April, “I’ve always played in a no.8 or no.10 position and I’m very happy that the manager could see it in me. I’m just looking forward to playing that role.”
Some United fans believe that his natural flair and attacking threat was not being utilised effectively when under Mourinho and now we were going to see the best of him in the number 10 role. Despite some good performances in games last season, there were times where he did not have much influence on the game as his passing were not as strong, positionally he would drift away and lose concentration at vital time.
When we beat Chelsea 4-0 on the opening day of this season, Pereria was utilised in the number 10 role to dictate play and make goal scoring opportunities for the likes of Lingard, Martial and Rashford. The only highlight of his game was providing the assist for Martial’s goal as he largely went unnoticed for the majority of it before being substituted. By the time we came to the Crystal Palace game last month, he was dropped and back on the bench.
I feel Pereria’s versatility in that he can do many different roles on the pitch maybe a hindrance for him. He acknowledged recently in an interview with the Independent that “It’s difficult being a midfielder in today’s modern game”. For United to get the best out of the midfield, I believe Pereria needs to move into the number 8 role permanently and this would help in letting Paul Pogba be further up the pitch to be the creative force he can be behind the strikers. In the number 8 role, I think Pereria can easily switch between defending and attacking, maintain possession, break into the opposition box and look to score goals but does need to be given a run of games to impress.
Only time will tell with Pereria whether or not he will make the grade at Manchester United. If he familiarises himself again with the number 8 position, we will probably see his game improve, but he is no longer a young player. The time is now for him to grasp the opportunities. If he can do it, then Pereria can become an important squad player for United.