José Mourinho has been many things during his long career as a manager: a serial winner, a pragmatic strategist, a controversial figure, Arsène Wenger's cause for insomnia and the living embodiment of the phrase "my way or the highway". But one thing he has not been in all those years is a developer of young talent.
Now, we're not going to get into the De Bruyne/Lukaku/many others debate because it's tiresome and it has been written by better and worse authors than this particular aspect of The Busby Babe. But those people that pointed out in the past that Mourinho doesn't do youth do have a point: the Portuguese always relies on proven players to make his title challenges and has been pretty successful at that. Considering that football lives now with a results-above-everything mentality, that's paramount.
With regard to youth, Manchester United is an anomaly among the big clubs in Europe: a club that prides itself on developing youngsters, going back to the days of the never-forgotten Busby Babes. United fans love to see an academy graduate getting minutes with the first team; it represents the club's heart and raison d’être. So when Mourinho arrived to be our new
overlord manager, concerns about the future of the likes of Marcus Rashford, Timothy Fosu-Mensah, Adnan Januzaj, Jesse Lingard, Cameron Borthwick-Jackson and Andreas Pereira — among a few others — was understandable because of the Portuguese's precedent with youngsters. We'll talk about the Brazilian jewel in this article.
Anyone following Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and the match threads of The Busby Babe in recent years will tell you that we United fans wanted Louis van Gaal to give Pereira more chances on the first team. The former PSV youngster outgrew the Under-21 fairly quickly with his maturity, creativity and being just overall incredibly talented. He also showed himself to be highly versatile, playing as a left winger, an attacking midfielder and in the heart of midfield. But van Gaal was very reluctant to give the Brazilian a chance and with Mourinho on the horizon, some fans feared that young Andreas would turn into Pogba 2.0 (and given the scenario with Pogba nowadays, we really don't want to spend 150 million pounds if he turns into a superstar at another club).
So Mourinho came, gave Pereira a few matches in pre-season, spoke highly of him and sent him on loan to the Spanish side Granada to gain much more experience on the pitch in one of the world's greatest leagues. Perhaps not what everybody expected in terms of desire (every fan wants to see their star youngster gaining experience with their club), but it was the most likely scenario, considering how Mourinho works.
Pereira took the challenge with gusto and has been the solitary bright spot of a team who is sitting 19th on the league and is one of the main candidates for relegation. Having said that, Andreas has been one of the starting players in pretty much every match, has put in some encouraging performances given his team's situation and malfunction and is gaining the experience of a relegation struggle while the rest of the squad relies on him, toughening him in the process. That's good; that's great, in fact. But the season would end in a couple of months and we have to ask ourselves this: should Andres Pereira be given an opportunity at United's first team next season?
With Wayne Rooney, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Ashley Young, (perhaps) Marouane Fellaini and (pretty please, don't do it, Mou) Anthony Martial possibly leaving next season, a spot for Pereira could be granted. During the club's bad run of draws, the team has been lacking creativity to disarm the opposition's defense and player such as Andreas, coming from the bench, could provide a certain spark during these ordeals. And while he'd certainly be demanding more playing time after his loan spell, a role coming as a substitute wouldn't be such a bad deal for the Brazilian.
Mourinho has been talking pretty well of Andreas and Andreas has been talking equally well of Mourinho, with both of them admitting they have been talking repeatedly during this season. The lad knows the club and seems like the type of creative player the Portuguese manager likes: skilful, hardworking and with a good mentality. But we can also argue that playing at Manchester United is much more demanding than playing at Granada in terms of chances and expectations; we have seen players such as a Ángel Di María, Radamel Falcao and Memphis Depay not being able to cope with that while having much more than just the one full top-flight season that Pereira has under his belt.
At the end of the day, kids will be kids. Andreas Pereira is probably going to play in a top league next season, regardless of the team. He is probably going to do wonders at times and he is probably going to make mistakes at others. The nature of the youngster. The important thing to ask ourselves is if those wonders and those mistakes are going to be, at the long haul, beneficial for United's next season, if he stays.
We have stated our opinion and we would love read yours on the comment section about the future of one of the academy's brightest graduates in the last couple of years.