How should Solskjær use Pereira?

Photo Credit: Peter Powell/EPA

Andreas Pereira has been at Manchester United for a long time, seven years to be precise, and although he's spent two seasons on loan in Spain (16/17 with Granada and 17/18 with Valencia) the coaching staff clearly saw enough of him to justify the reward of four year contract, this in a year when stalwarts like Fellaini and Herrera were allowed to move on to pastures new. The general consensus on the terraces was that Pereira was no more than a squad player, someone to bring on when you're a goal or two up and you want to save a senior players legs for the big game on Sunday. Sure, there was that unbelievable goal he scored against Southampton last season, but apart from that you barely knew he was on the pitch.

During the last two seasons he's been asked to play in numerous positions, and he never really looked at home in any of them. CM, DM, AM, wide right, you name a midfield role, he's played it, which probably goes some way to explaining why his form has been so erratic. In any walk of life, it's difficult to perform consistently at a high level if you don't know from one week to the next what job you'll be expected to do. Even elite level footballers would struggle to maintain form under those circumstances, yet we're all too quick to dismiss youth team graduates who don't immediately adapt.

I've long felt that we shouldn't rush to judgement with him as there always looked to be unlocked potential somewhere just below the surface, so it was extremely pleasing for me when I witnessed his performance against Liverpool recently where he was magnificent. Playing just behind the front two in a 4-3-1-2 formation Pereira hounded and harried the Liverpool defence, disabling the link between the centre backs and Fabinho in midfield. For a team like Liverpool who pride themselves on playing the ball out from the back this was a major handicap.

Against Norwich City the following week he had another good game, this time as the centre of the three in a 4-2-3-1 line-up, and it looked like we were finally beginning to see the real Andreas Pereira. Unfortunately this short burst of good form didn't last as the compact Bournemouth defence, combined with a midfield so deep you couldn't see the bottom of it, highlighted Pereira's shortcomings. For all the praise I sent his way for the Liverpool performance I have to concede that he's not in any way suited to the task of unpicking a lock when he has no time and space in which to operate.

What I've taken away from all of this is straightforward: Against weaker teams who maintain a rigid defensive shape and employ two holing midfielders Pereira is not particularly effective, however, against better teams who play out from the back and keep a high defensive line he's an ideal number 10.

Like Ji-sung Park to Alex Ferguson, Andreas Pereira might just prove to be Solskjær's big game player.


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