Jesse Lingard should be Andreas Pereira's inspiration at Man United

Matt Jones 27/08/2018
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Andreas Pereira is surrounded by huge names, big egos, experienced stars whose trophy cabinets are crammed full of silverware – but it is one of Manchester United’s lesser lights that he should look to if he really wants to shine bright on the Old Trafford stage.

Jesse Lingard remains a much-maligned player in the red half of Manchester but Pereira would be wise to pick up the breadcrumbs he has dropped and follow the same yellow brick road to success as a Red Devil.

Loan spells away from parent clubs on the way to ultimate glory are far from uncommon for footballers, particularly at United.

Take David Beckham, Jermain Defoe and John Terry who were nobodies when they went to Preston North End, Bournemouth and Nottingham Forest respectively in their formative years – yet returned with reputations enhanced.

Beckham scored two goals in five matches, one a trademark free-kick and the other direct from a corner, as he earned the respect of hard-nosed senior pros – among them future United manager David Moyes – initially wary of the flashy teenager from the Premier League.

Jesse Lingard scores the winning goal in the 2016 FA Cup final.

Jesse Lingard scores the winning goal in the 2016 FA Cup final.

Lingard himself spent a mammoth period away from Old Trafford between 2012-15, learning to hone his talent. Indeed, it seemed as if his future was destined to be played in the second tier after successful spells with Leicester, Birmingham, Brighton and Derby County in the Championship.

He used his time away wisely, memorably scoring four goals, including a 13-minute hat-trick, on his Birmingham debut in a 4-1 win against Sheffield Wednesday.

Still, it seemed like he would never quite make the grade – many strangely still believe he hasn’t and won’t – before finally breaking through under Louis van Gaal in 2015/16.

He made 42 appearances and hasn’t looked back – culminating in featuring prominently for England at the World Cup – even if he divides opinion like few other players.

Whatever your opinion, there is no doubt the 25-year-old has finally come of age in the past three seasons and become an increasingly vital player under Jose Mourinho. This despite the constant criticism both from outside and within the club.

A creator of exquisite and intelligent runs, a scorer of spectacular and crucial goals in the biggest games.

While he may not be the biggest either in name or stature, his importance to Mourinho and United is immeasurable.

He is living proof that while talent is a much sought-after commodity in football, there really is no substitute for dedication, hard work and perseverance.

Pereira celebrates after his stunning free-kick against Liverpool in pre-season.

Pereira celebrates after his stunning free-kick against Liverpool in pre-season.

These are all traits Pereira can use in order to forge his own path to glory. The Belgian-born midfielder has already trodden his own fairly worn footsteps away from Old Trafford.

He impressed in the high-pressure environment of La Liga during the last two seasons, shining particularly brightly in 2016/17 with Granada, where his five goals in 37 games nevertheless could not prevent relegation.

Last season he was said to have largely underwhelmed at the Mestalla, despite featuring 29 times, scoring once and contributing three La Liga assists for Valencia as Los Che finished fourth and qualified for the Champions League for the first time in three seasons.

The 22-year-old was frequently accused of individualism and immaturity.

Yet he hit the ground running in the absence of United’s World Cup stars this summer, scoring a stunning free-kick on an otherwise forgetful day for United against Liverpool – Pereira’s strike coming as a 4-1 hammering was meted out in Michigan by arch enemies.

There’s plenty of pressure on Mourinho and United following an abject start to the season – the knives are out in force and being sharpened following last week’s woeful 3-2 defeat at Brighton.

Yet Pereira is playing, and also performing. His 93 passes are fifth most so far for United, his three interceptions per game leads the team and his 91.4 per cent pass success rate trails only Fred and Victor Lindelof.

Twelve months ago, having impressed on United’s US pre-season tour, he angered his manager when he opted to return to Spain with Valencia rather than fight for a first team place – Nemanja Matic’s arrival surely had a bearing on that decision.

But this summer, he has earned praise from a purring Mourinho, as well as an upgrade to the No15 jersey, with the boss ironically now no longer seeing him as just a number.

“At this moment he is a player – not a number,” the Portuguese said of Pereira ahead of the Tottenham game.

The much-maligned Jesse Lingard was a key player in an England side that reached the 2018 World Cup semi-finals.

The much-maligned Jesse Lingard was a key player in an England side that reached the 2018 World Cup semi-finals.

“Sometimes in the squad you have a couple of players who are just a number. They are just there to cover, to play a couple of minutes in the Carabao Cup.

“But at this moment, Pereira is a player who is competing with the other guys for a position in the team.”

That will be music to the Brazil Under-23 international’s ears. And he must now find a rhythm this season.

He has the upper hand on Lingard in many respects. He possesses infinitely more skill and technique. Now if he can just emulate the England man’s heart and attitude he might have Old Trafford dancing to his Samba beat.

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Man United disruption only fuelling Man City machine, warns Mike Phelan

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Jose Mourinho and Manchester United need to be “very careful” that any conflict at the club does not strengthen Manchester City’s hand, according to former Red Devils assistant boss Mike Phelan.

Manager Mourinho denied there was any rift with executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward on Friday, during a tetchy press conference looking ahead to Monday’s Premier League home clash with Tottenham.

The Portuguese has nonetheless made clear his frustration over the lack of extra signings during the summer, which saw three players join – midfielder Fred, full-back Diogo Dalot and goalkeeper Lee Grant.

And after the season-opening 2-1 home win against Leicester, the failure to improve in defence appeared glaring in the 3-2 loss at Brighton last weekend.

Defending champions City, who United finished 19 points behind in second place last season, have taken seven points from three games so far this term.

Phelan told BBC Radio 5 Live’s Sportsweek programme: “I think what is there at the moment is fierce competition within the city, and if Manchester United are at loggerheads within the club I think it just helps fuel Manchester City’s cause more than anything else.

“And I think that’s something they need to be very careful of because Manchester City are a very big club now and they’re very well run and they know how to use certain situations, and I think that helps – unrest across the road helps.”

When asked if he believes Mourinho will still be in charge at the end of the season, Phelan, who spent five years as number two to Sir Alex Ferguson at Old Trafford, said: “Results and performances will dictate that. The end of the season is a long, long way away.

“But he needs to now get results. He’s on the back of what was a disappointing performance and result.

“It’s all going to come down to a mixture of everything. Most managers are concerned with results, most clubs are concerned with results, but he has to perform as well – and the less said and the more action probably is better.”

The loss at Brighton was followed by a report that disillusionment about Mourinho’s methods was growing in the United dressing room, and there has been plenty of questioning of Paul Pogba’s happiness at the club.

However, Fred, who started the Leicester game and played the full duration against Brighton, says the dressing room at United “has an excellent atmosphere”.

The 25-year-old Brazilian, signed from Shakhtar Donetsk in June, told ESPN Brasil: “The media love to talk.

“The dressing room has an excellent atmosphere. From what I’ve seen since I arrived, no one has a problem with anybody. It’s the contrary. Everyone wants to help everyone.

“(The criticism) is normal. We lost a match. It is a big team, a European giant. It is normal that people talk, but Mourinho is a great manager.

“I am really happy to be working with him. I’m really happy to be part of this group as well, because it is a really good and closed group. We are all finding solutions to help us improve on the pitch to find our victories.”

Fred added: “No one is happy after a defeat. I was very angry about this defeat (against Brighton) and we could have gone top, but this is football.

“Unfortunately, we didn’t play well, but now we have a big game in front of us and we need to try to improve and look for the victory.”

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Jose Mourinho tells his Manchester United players to cut out the sloppy mistakes

Simon Peach 25/08/2018
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Jose Mourinho told his players to cut out the sloppy mistakes after admitting Manchester United got what they deserved at Brighton.

After opening the Premier League campaign with a largely comfortable victory against Leicester, the Red Devils crumbled on the south coast last Sunday.

Their performance at Brighton was more of a concern than the 3-2 defeat and saw United come under the microscope, with intense scrutiny on the manager, players and background operations during an uncomfortable week.

Mourinho’s men have to wait until Monday for a shot at making amends and the United boss warned his players that they can ill afford to make similar errors against Tottenham.

The Portuguese said: “You know, just looking to Leicester and Brighton. Against Leicester we didn’t make mistakes, we played well, we won. Against Brighton, we made mistakes, we paid for the mistakes and we lost.

“So, I think you look at football in a very pragmatic way, normally you get what you deserve, so if we want to win against a good team against Tottenham, we cannot make mistakes.”

Mourinho, whose tetchiness in the pre-match press conference made ripples, cannot wait to be on the touchline on Monday.

United have a splendid home record against Spurs and come into the match after impressive training ground output.

“I think nobody is happy, obviously,” Mourinho told MUTV.

“But I have enough experience to know that in football you cannot look back for good results, for bad results and you have always to look to the next one. That’s our life.

“So, I’m really happy with the work we did in the week, with the players’ commitment and I look forward for the game. You can look at (having to wait until Monday) from two different perspectives.

“By one side I would say yes but, on another side, I would say we need time to work and some time to try to recover some players from injury, so it was not bad for us.”

United forward Alexis Sanchez, defensive midfielder Nemanja Matic and captain Antonio Valencia could all bolster Mourinho’s squad for the visit of Spurs.

Sanchez missed last week’s loss at Brighton through injury and will be assessed, just as Matic and Valencia will be as they push for their first minutes of the campaign.

Summer signing Diogo Dalot is also training as Mourinho looks to name a team capable of giving top-four rivals a bloody nose once more.

“That’s what we tried to do the last season,” he added.

“In big matches last season we managed to get lots of good results, which in the end are points like the other points in the other matches.

“But for the supporters normally it has a little different feeling.”

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