Andreas Pereira showed a flash of his potential last month in Manchester United’s draw with Liverpool. There was a very low bar, but it was the best performance of a United attacking midfielder this season.
Pereira has since been given the opportunity to make the position his own, at least until Paul Pogba returns from injury, but he isn’t quite doing enough to convince.
At this stage he is still stuck at ‘useful squad player’, than ‘good enough to be a regular starter’. And that’s before we sign a top quality attacker to play in the role.
Pereira’s problem is not that he is not talented or does not work hard enough. His industrious edge and excellent technique are among his biggest assets. His major flaw is his decision making.
The criticism of Pereira is that he lacks the guile and subtlety to unpick defences.
He gives the ball away too frequently, as showed up by his 73 per cent pass completion rate. In the loss at Bournemouth he was really poor and completed just 60 per cent of his passes.
United reportedly did not sign Bruno Fernandes in the summer due to concerns over his passing, The Mail reported. He has completed 77 per cent of his passes this season and his performances are lit up by five league goals and five assists.
With Fernandes the difference is that he is a risk taker. The downside of Pereira’s game just makes him look flawed.
Pereira is effective at creating chances from set pieces, but from open play he is not so efficient.
He has one goal and one assist this season. The assist came back on the first day, from a cross from the right, while his goal against Brighton was fortunate.
It was lucky not just because of the big deflection, but because he was lucky to get the chance to shoot after giving the ball away when he dribbled into an opponent when there was an easy pass on.
Can he fix his poor decision making?
Ultimately we do not know the answer to this question, but it is not the type of problem which is easily fixed.
The problem is that football intelligence is the sort of ability top playmakers are born with, having the eyes to see the whole pitch and space in front of them, to pick out passes and runners defenders will not see.
There could be reasons holding Pereira back. Is he too nervous? Is he simply trying too hard, knowing his first team chance could soon be gone? The goal against Brighton, fortunate as it was, may take some of the pressure off and help him relax.
He has grown in recent weeks, showing that in a central position he is a valuable squad player to United. He can press as effectively if not better than Jesse Lingard, while his set pieces make him an upgrade.
As an overall package he isn’t at the level United need from the position, and a new signing needs to be made.
The more game time he gets in the position, he more he will develop. We are seeing the benefits Fred is reaping from regular playing time.
At the moment Pereira looks like he has a limited upside. Until he can show craft and intelligence on the ball in open play, he will be short of the player United need in his position.
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