Andreas Pereira does not want to go on loan again next season and, following his cameo against Real Madrid on Sunday, you can see why.
This was the first time Manchester United supporters had a chance to see the Brazilian feature at No.10 since returning from a potentially defining loan spell with Granada last term.
And what they saw was highly encouraging: he was nimble, sharp in possession, turning with pace and purpose but most of all blessed with a sense of conviction garnered during his time in La Liga.
There was a moment, for example, where he took four Madrid players completely out of the game through virtue of nothing more than a silky, instinctive turn out of trouble and away to set up an attack.
If Pereira doesn't earn his place for the upcoming season I'll be astonished!! 👏🏽
— RedDevilsDaily (@RedDevilsDaily) July 24, 2017
Pereira has, of course, impressed during pre-season tours before, but never against players like Toni Kroos and Marcelo. This was a moment of simple brilliance that shows exactly why he ranked fifth – not too far behind Lionel Messi and Neymar – in the La Liga standings for most successful take-ons completed last term. And that was with a Granada side incapable of anything more than 20 points last season.
Man United have dabbled with the No.10 role sporadically over the last few years, usually handing Wayne Rooney the honours. Needless to say, it was hardly the perfect arrangement for a player who, even at the height of his powers, has never been a master of quick turning and close control but if you were into your sports betting, then having Pereira down to make more than 15 starts this year for United in all competitions would be a smart move I’d say.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Juan Mata have demonstrated their quality in the role beforehand, but Mourinho has largely preferred using them as wide players with a license to drift infield and pull defenders into awkward spaces.
Perhaps this is because the No.10 role, in a broader sense, has started to lose its relevance in the Premier League, primarily due to managers envisaging better ways of opening up back fours but also due to a genuine lack of knowledge about the position.
But Pereira, during his time with Granada and indeed against Madrid, has given a valuable lesson to the footballing world about what being a No.10 really means, and what it can achieve.
The prime object is not, contrary to popular belief, goals, assists and killer passes. It is much subtler than that. Playing behind the striker and next to wingers requires you to open up space for others, to receive the ball in an awkward area, turn out of danger and move it along, taking one or two defenders out of the game each time. Do this regularly and you will wear out the core of the opposition’s midfield.
Death by a thousand cuts, rather than a bullet to the brain, so to speak. And this is what Pereira, if Mourinho continues to hand him chances, can offer next season.
He may not be a central component; he may not even play that much. But having his unique skill behind Romelu Lukaku could be valuable.
The bottom line is this: we don’t know if Pereira can succeed in the first team, but he deserves a chance at the very least.