Shortly after Andreas Pereira and Brazil suffered a narrow defeat against Serbia at the FIFA U-20 World Cup final in New Zealand, Manchester United team-mates Marouane Fellaini and Adnan Januzaj were prophesying a great future for the midfielder.
The Belgians were not surmising. Pereira won accolades while on duty for Brazil. Brazilian coach Rogerio Micale omitted Pereira from the 5-0 semi-final rout of Senegal, but the 19-year-old flourished in the other matches, providing attacking impetus from both wide and central areas.
He demonstrated his precocious talent and imposed his personality when required. Pereira scored twice in the tournament, while also converting two crucial penalties in the shootouts against Uruguay and Portugal.
“It was incredible to play and challenge at a World Cup for Brazil,” Pereira told Bleacher Report. “Unfortunately we lost the final. We had chances to win, but it wasn't supposed to be that day. Serbia had a great collective and deserved to be world champions. We had a few chances to turn the game around, but unfortunately we didn’t succeed. It’s part of the game.”
Still, in that ill-fated final, Pereira netted a sensational solo goal to cancel out Stanisa Mandic’s opener for Serbia. He darted past three defenders on the left before curling the ball beyond hapless goalkeeper Predrag Rajkovic. It was fine illustration of Pereira’s skills, highlighting his balance and nimbleness.
The Brazilian enjoyed a multicultural football upbringing with Belgium’s Lommel United, the Netherlands' PSV and England’s Manchester United. At the age of nine, he moved to Eindhoven, where the Dutch school had a profound influence on Pereira.
"It is a very technical school of football with a liking for playing and passing the ball around,” Pereira said. “It was good to have had the opportunity to play at PSV, a club with one of the best youth academies in Europe. It’s cool to have a mix of Brazil, Holland and England—to draw from every school is interesting and puts me in a privileged position.”
In 2012, Manchester United contracted the prodigy, who picked up the club’s U21 Player of the Year in the 2014/15 season. Speculation was rife about Pereira’s future last season, as Paris-Saint German showed interest, reported by the Express, but United coach Louis van Gaal offered the attacking midfielder a contract extension in May.
"Andreas has all the attributes to become an integral part of the first team; great natural talent coupled with a good appetite to learn,” said Van Gaal at the time, relayed by the club's official website.
“When I heard about the interest, I was delighted with the possibility of playing at Old Trafford," recalls Pereira. “Manchester United is the biggest club in the world. When I managed to play my first game last season, I was over the moon—it was like a dream come true. I was very happy to able to renew my contract with Manchester United. My objective was always to stay and have a successful career at this club. Van Gaal is a great coach and I am grateful for the opportunity that he is giving me.”
Pereira hasn't had much playing time with United’s first team, but Van Gaal’s 4-3-3 system may open up options for the player, who can bed into the starting lineup as a No. 10 or a wide forward, where the arrival of Memphis Depay makes the competition for places even fiercer.
“I want to get more opportunities and have the chance to play as many games as possible,” said Pereira.
Pereira and United are in the United States for the pre-season International Champions Cup. It’s a window of opportunity for Pereira to impress Van Gaal and add some of his craftsmanship to the forward line before Manchester United open the Premier League season against Tottenham Hotspur on August 8.
“We have new players coming in, and if we start the season well—differently from last year—we will challenge for the title,” said Pereira.
For now, Pereira’s prime concern has to be United’s pre-season tour; if he performs well against Club America, San Jose Earthquakes, FC Barcelona and PSG, he might soon be wearing a first-team shirt on a regular basis.
Bleacher Report is official media partner of the International Champions Cup North America