Looking at early Manchester United pre-season games and trying to make any serious assessment is a rather pointless exercise, but humour me for a few minutes.
As he did last summer, Andreas Pereira has taken up a deep role in the Manchester United midfield, which indicates that Jose Mourinho has a clear plan for him if he is to stay at the club. He’s certainly not a classic defensive midfielder in the mould of Kante or Matic, and his reading of the game defensively is not the thing that pops into our heads when we think of him. That said, when he’s on the ball, picking it up from the central defenders and making things tic early on and starting moves, it is slightly reminiscent of Michael Carrick and Andrea Pirlo. Don’t get me wrong, he has a LONG way to go before reaching those lofty heights but there’s certainly something there.
So what has this got to do with Paul Pogba? Well on the surface, I like most, would have thought that Pereira could make for a decent alternative in the games that Pogba misses. We saw from his loan spells in Valencia and Granada that he is comfortable on the left hand side and creating in advanced areas.
You can’t help but feel that Pereira could have made a decent contribution in the 15 games Paul Pogba missed through injury and suspension if only he stuck around at the club last season. Heaven knows that our attacking threat was much reduced in those games, with replacements such as Ander Herrera and Scott McTominay more comfortable contributing on the defensive end.
But could they actually play together? Watching Pereira again against Club America, it seems to me that he isn’t afraid of getting stuck in. Sure he might not be the most physically imposing but there might be something there. He does have quite a bit of bite. Defending might not be his preference but let’s face it, United don’t defend in most games.
United dominate possession more than most teams in the league, but we have a definite problem in breaking down teams that park the bus. Adding a ‘regista’ (or ‘a deep lying playmaker’ for the uni-lingual amongst us) to our team, in some games might also get the best out of Paul Pogba. However well Pogba has done at United so far, his best form in club football so far has come playing alongside one of the best registas in history, the aforementioned Andrea Pirlo.
So how feasible is this? Could a midfield trio of Pereira Pogba and Fred for example work? The answer is, maybe not always, but surely in some games it can. When we are dominating possession and have nothing to fear on the break, such a selection might add an extra dimension to our attack.
Andreas does have an eye for a pass and can reduce some of the burden on Pogba to start moves from deep, which we have seen on so many occasions, allowing him to concentrate on what he does best… score goals and create chances. I will accept that playing such a midfield three away at Anfield is an accident (drubbing) waiting to happen, but would anybody be upset to see it line up vs Wolves, or Palace, or Cardiff at Old Trafford? I think most would be thrilled to see so much attacking threat in the team.
Now it may be a pipe dream to expect Jose to play Andreas Pereira regularly, but he definitely took his chance against Club America, and even if it’s just to enter games from the substitutes bench to start with, it could be something worth keeping an eye on at the start of the season.