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What does the future hold for Joel Pereira?

The career of the once highly-rated Manchester United academy goalkeeper has hit the skids

Manchester United Training Session Photo by Matthew Peters/Manchester United via Getty Images

On the 9th of June, Joel Pereira’s Instagram account had a new picture of him training for the first time since August. The caption read “Happy to be back.” Manchester United probably have one of the best selections of goalkeepers in the world with the likes of David De Gea, Sergio Romero, Lee Grant, Dean Henderson (currently on loan at Sheffield United) and Joel Pereira.

Back In 2017, José Mourinho raved about Pereira:

“We [Manchester United] have two fantastic goalkeepers, we have a third goalkeeper that I think will be the best Portuguese goalkeeper of the next generation [Joel Pereira]. We have great goalkeepers and against anyone in the world I trust [them] completely”.

Mourinho believed so greatly in Pereira that he would have him fielded against any team of the world, in spite of the youngster’s inexperience. With the support of one of the world’s best managers, Pereira got to play not only in the FA cup but also the Premier League — surely a sign that the young ‘keeper was being primed to eventually compete for a first team spot.

In his time at United, the Portuguese shot-stopper, who joined the Reds as a youngster back in 2012, has spent the majority of his time either on the sidelines or on loan with sides such as Rochdale, Belenenses, Vitoria Setubal, KV Kortrijk and most recently, Hearts. At Tynecastle Park, he seems to have had a torrid time. Pereira conceded 45 goals in 25 games. He seemed to be in such bad form that he was dropped for the last four games. He managed just 5 clean sheets this season — and only one of those in the last 14 games — despite getting regular time after earning himself a move to Hearts in search of more game time.

Although he is back at United and has another year to go on his contract, he is now competing with the likes of Lee Grant (the current third choice keeper at United), rather than with De Gea or the established second-choice Sergio Romero. With Dean Henderson looking set to eventually take over after De Gea, and Grant’s experience giving him an edge over Pereira, it seems like it would be best for Pereira to look for another club.

Why is another loan not an option?

With his previous loan spells in Portugal, Belgium, and Scotland, Pereira has not gotten consistent game time. Showing a positive attitude before his latest loan to Hearts, he said:

“I think that in this new season it will be important for me to play somewhere, so probably going on loan will be the best option for me, to get some games to come back better and stronger.”

That didn’t quite go according to plan. While another loan is the most conservative option, it is not fair on him. The reality is that he has never been a full-time starter at any of the clubs he has been at, and he needs to be careful when choosing his next destination. Either United should either find him the right club — just the way they did for Henderson at Sheffield United — or just sell him. By loaning him again, United will be keeping his career in limbo, which would be selfish on United’s part.

A permanent transfer beckons

It’s not fair on Pereira to make him sit on the bench or play in the reserves through another season. He is 23 years old now and can easily re-launch his career. United can also cut their losses — even in a COVID-19-impacted transfer market, Pereira is still a Manchester United goalkeeper. They’ll get a good price for him. It’s a win for both parties. Pereira has no realistic path to the first team, and United have little to gain by facilitating another temporary move for a player whose contract the club have little apparent interest in extending. He won’t be the first highly-rated youngster to fail to make it at United, and he won’t be the last.