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- May 8, 2011
Andreas Pereira: Manchester United can't take Wayne Rooney away... he'll stay until he dies | Daily Mail Online
Louis van Gaal never confronted Andreas Pereira about suggestions he had duelled with Adnan Januzaj to score directly from a corner during a Manchester United reserve game.
Pereira denies it happened, but there is a glint in the youngster's eye when he talks about it being a legitimate trick to try to score a goal.
'Of course, if the goalkeeper is not concentrating and you spot that, you're entitled to have a go,' he says. 'I did score from a corner. Ask [team-mate] James Weir if I meant to. He says that I'd told him before the game I could do it.'
Pereira, currently on loan from United to La Liga side Granada whose next game is against Barcelona next Saturday, retains a free spirit.
Born in Belgium and made in Manchester, his Brazilian roots run deep. Father Marcos grew up in the same southern city Londrina as Manchester City's Fernandinho and was a professional in Europe with Antwerp and Mechelen.
His son was brought up to idolise World Cup winner Romario and has even named his dog Zico after the Eighties legend.
'It was a bit of pressure growing up in Belgium with everyone saying 'He's Brazilian, so he must be good at football,' said Pereira with a smile.
'But I enjoyed it as well. I like to do tricks, play Brazilian-style football. I think it suits me.'
He joined United on his 16th birthday after impressing in a youth tournament for PSV Eindhoven. 'Sir Alex Ferguson told me United was a family club and he had a space for one more Brazilian!' he said.
Yet this summer, after a dozen first-team games under Louis van Gaal, he made the big decision to take a sabbatical abroad after a frank discussion with the club's new incoming manager, Jose Mourinho.
'I wanted to play more games under Van Gaal and thought I could have played more but it's not the way it happened,' said Pereira.
'When I spoke to Mourinho in his office at the training ground, he said he really liked me and the way I play, and he wanted to give me a chance to go on loan. He said it was important to get experience and prove myself and that he definitely wanted me to come back after a season.
'He was very honest with me, which I really liked. I think it's why he is a very successful coach.
'I only worked with him a short amount of time and played a pre-season friendly at Wigan but I liked the way he works for the team and speaks to people. He knows what he wants and what his players are capable of.'
There were no shortage of offers for the Brazil under-20 midfielder but he opted for Spain because 'I wanted to develop my football. Things I am good at already, to get even better.'
Home today is a lovely bungalow cut into the hillside a few miles south of Granada, a historic Andalucian town close to the Sierra Nevada mountains. It has a swimming pool, naturally, and an area for basketball.
To add to the normality, his Brazilian girlfriend has moved in and his parents are 20 minutes away by car. He watches all of United's games on television and stays in regular touch with his team-mates from England, often competing on PlayStation.
'Life is a lot different here. If you walk into town in England, people see you as a kind of hero if you play for Manchester United, not a normal person. It's more relaxed here, the people are calm,' he said.
'If I went shopping in the Trafford Centre, you could feel people looking at you. If one asks for a picture, they would all come.
'It's natural because you are part of the biggest club in the world. Here in Granada, you go for dinner, they don't care if you are a footballer or not. You're free in that way.'
On the pitch, the gulf between the big teams and the rest in La Liga hasn't made things easy.
Individually, Pereira has done well and been a regular assist-maker, but Granada have already had three managers this season and lost their last away game 7-1 to Atletico Madrid.
'You can tell the Premier League is stronger in terms of being played faster and being more physical. In Spain, it is a bit more technical and more tactical,' said Pereira.
'For me, the Premier League is still the best because every game is tough. United can go away to Crystal Palace and have a difficult time. Here nobody is surprised if Barcelona or Real Madrid score six, seven or eight goals.
'It is very difficult for us against the really top sides. You just defend all the time, wait for one opportunity to counter and after 90 minutes it still hasn't come.
'We have a young team, a lot of new signings. When you get a new manager, everything changes and you are in between styles. Hopefully the new coach [Lucas Alcaraz] will be here for some time.
Pereira is due to stay at Granada for the season though there is an option to move to another club in Spain or England in January if all parties agree.
He thinks the experience of La Liga would help a lot of Premier League stars. 'Particularly defensive players who want to learn something about playing more football. Here they try to play any time, any way,' he said.
Might it be good for Wayne Rooney at some point? 'No, not for Rooney. He is the club's icon. You can't take him away from Manchester United,' he said. 'It will not be the same Manchester United without Wayne Rooney. He has to stay there until he dies.'
Rooney has clearly been an important mentor for Pereira. The day before he scored his only senior United goal against Ipswich in the League Cup, he had practised free-kicks with Rooney, who showed him how to swing through the ball properly.
The younger player executed the technique perfectly at Old Trafford, 'Rooney came up to me afterwards and said it was his assist,' said Pereira. 'I have to thank Juan Mata as well. He wanted to take the free-kick, I said, 'Juan, you play every game for United, please let me have this one.' And he did.'
With temperatures still comfortably topping 20 degrees and Pereira's home in an area of total peace and tranquility, Manchester seems a million miles away.
But once a United player, still a United player. 'They ask me all kinds of stuff about United in the Granada dressing room,' he says.
'When you're there at United, you don't realise how big the club is because your life becomes normal life. Now I am here, I realise. You can see in people's eyes when they talk about United, it is special.'
He reveals the most frequent question asked is which United player is best in training.
'I tell them there are a few, but when I was there, Wazza [Rooney] and Marcus [Rashford] were doing very well. Marcus was very sharp but Rooney has been up there. He is very sharp in training.'
Ironically, Pereira's last United game was Rashford's first, when he scored twice in the Europa League against FC Midtjylland in February.
'Everyone at the academy and Carrington knew how good Marcus was. We were expecting great things of him even though you couldn't have predicted exactly what he's done,' said Pereira.
'He has stayed very calm. He doesn't chase attention like some players do. I think it fits in with how United are. I knew Pogba as a kid before he went to Juventus. He hasn't changed, still humble, a nice guy.
'United changed in some ways after Ferguson left. Every manager has his own philosophy and style. But in other ways, the club hasn't changed. You can tell a United player like you can tell a Chelsea or Arsenal player. It is in the blood, a mixture of very hard work and very skilful players. A United player knows where they have come front. That is still the same today.'
Pereira hasn't taken his career break in Spain as a sign that his time at United is definitely up. 'I love the club so why can't I go back and play with Marcus and the other guys? It's my big ambition to get as much experience as I can and try to go back next year and be a regular first-team player.
'Mourinho will be honest with me. If he says I can't do it, I will try do my best somewhere else and maybe come back another time like Pogba. But the club are keeping in touch, I got a message last week from Luis Faria [Mourinho's assistant]. It shows I am not forgotten.'
Next up is Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Pereira's compatriot Neymar. 'You have to try and enjoy it, playing in a big stadium against great players, even if I am not going to have a lot of the ball. I won't be scared,' he said.
After all, despite Barca's aura, Pereira sincerely believes he is already signed up to the biggest club in the world — Manchester United.