Can Andreas Pereira Push on After Manchester United Debut in MK Dons Drubbing?

Christopher AtkinsContributor IAugust 27, 2014

MILTON KEYNES, ENGLAND - AUGUST 26:  Andreas Pereira of Manchester United in action during the Capital One Cup second round match between MK Dons and Manchester United at Stadium mk on August 26, 2014 in Milton Keynes, England.  (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
Clive Mason/Getty Images

Tuesday night was an unpleasant experience for all those connected with Manchester United football club. A 4-0 away defeat to an albeit impressive MK Dons side was a new low in the club's post-Sir Alex Ferguson era, as new head coach Louis van Gaal continues to seek to turn around what is now a long-running decline.

It was a youthful side that took to the pitch, and the Dutchman was at pains to stress that he was happy with the effort of his younger players.

For senior statesmen like Anderson, Danny Welbeck, Shinji Kagawa, Javier Hernandez and Jonny Evans, some of whom are already residents in last chance saloon, it is a different story. Welbeck, it should be pointed out, was one of the side's only real threats. The others failed to live up to their status.

What of the younger players? It was a night to forget for Michael Keane, who once more looked tentative in his role on the right of a back three, while Reece James is another who will hope to move on quickly.

Nick Powell gave a couple of glimpses of his attacking potential but was largely sloppy, Marnick Vermijl was the most composed defender on the ball and Saidy Janko offered up a 45-minute demonstration that suggests he has a future at right-back.

For many fans, though, it was the second-half introductions of James Wilson and Andreas Pereira that offered the only hope they could take from a 4-0 defeat.

MILTON KEYNES, ENGLAND - AUGUST 26: Andreas Pereira of Manchester United takes on Darren Potter of Milton Keynes Dons during the Capital One Cup Second Round match between MK Dons and Manchester United at Stadium mk on August 26, 2014 in Milton Keynes, En
Clive Mason/Getty Images

Wilson showed his predatory instincts once more and was unlucky not to get on the scoresheet, while Pereira offered a couple of moments that suggested there is much more to come in the years ahead.

All in all, though, it was a night that will have made even such cameos seem an irrelevance given the general loss of confidence and belief at the club.

What of Pereira then? Born in Belgium to Brazilian parents, the 18-year-old became the first player born in 1996 or later to appear for Manchester United when he was summoned from the bench at half-time.

That he showed one or two moments of real quality will surprise nobody. Since his arrival at Old Trafford from PSV Eindhoven as a 15-year-old, the youngster has been regarded as a player of great quality. His issue has been turning that ability into regular starring roles.

Thus far, his best spell for the club below first-team level came at the 2013 Milk Cup when he captained the under-18 side to success and earned the Player of the Tournament accolade. Since moving up to the under-21s, though, he has been unable to produce such form week after week.

United's staff, though, clearly believe in his talent, and it is not always the case that consistency at youth level equates to being able to make the step up. Adnan Januzaj, for example, was moved up the ranks quickly at United when it was felt he was not performing as expected for the under-18s following a shock FA Youth Cup exit 18 months ago.

The next couple of years, then, will be intriguing to follow. There are players who are harder working and more consistent within the United youth ranks, but it is the natural talent of Pereira that means he will be given opportunities.

It is the deftness of touch, the ease with which he can beat a man and the quality of pass that, while not always up to standard, often show levels of ability that cannot be coached once a player reached their late teens. They are the qualities that make scouts sit up and take notice.

While United finished as runners-up in the Under-21 Premier League last season, doubts were raised as to his contributions in a variety of forward roles. Yet, when it came to a semi-final clash at Anfield, it was the Brazilian who curled home a sensational shot from outside the area to open the scoring.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - MAY 02: Andreas Pereira of Manchester United runs at the Liverpool defence during the Barclays U21 Premier League Semi Final match between Liverpool and Manchester United at Anfield on May 02, 2014 in Liverpool, England. (Photo by Chr
Chris Brunskill/Getty Images

Succeeding at senior level is far from an exact science, but there was enough in the Brazilian's 45-minute cameo on Tuesday to suggest he could thrive on the step up. He needs, though, to be doing more if he is to force his way in more regularly in the manner of Januzaj or now Wilson.

This summer, having previously represented Belgium up to the under-19 level, he switched allegiances to represent Brazil in a successful campaign at the Panda Cup in China. While it was not a first-choice under-20 selection, the experience will have done him good, and he is now on the radar of his homeland.

Pereira has now earned himself that platform with club and country, but the next step is up to him. Succeeding at United won't be easy given the club's depth of talent in the No. 10 and No. 8 positions, while there is competition from within the youth ranks.

Given the League Cup exit, opportunities this season may be few and far between, meaning a return to under-21 action for the year ahead. The onus is now on Pereira to make a case for inclusion.

United, as with every big club, have seen natural talents come and go without making much of an impact. Pereira must ensure he is not the latest in that line to allow his big chance to quietly pass by.