Andreas Pereira knows a thing or two about red devils. Having spent his adolescence representing *Les Diables Rouges *from U-15 to U-18 level, the Belgian-born youngster opted for a different breed when he joined the Red Devils of Manchester United in 2011. There, he has already started carving out his own little corner of heaven after being named the club's most exciting prospect in 2014/15, although thoughts of club football are currently far from the talented midfielder's mind.
In New Zealand for the FIFA U-20 World Cup, Andreas Pereira has his head in the clouds all the same. Poised to parade his skills on the global stage, he will nonetheless be representing the country of his parents at the finals. "I'm delighted to be here and I can't wait for this World Cup to begin," he said. "I'm so proud to be able to represent Brazil in this competition."
The story of how he came to choose the South American side has much to do with his father, Marcos Pereira, a former forward who spent his entire career in Belgium with the likes of Mechelen and Royal Antwerp. Andreas Pereira hails originally from Duffel in the province of Antwerp, but his father has been a major influence, helping him progress as a player and plot his path in the game – which led ultimately to the 20-year-old choosing Brazil over Belgium in 2014. "It was a natural decision," he said. "With my parents being both Brazilian, I feel Brazilian as well – nothing more and nothing less."
His way of playing merely reinforces that idea, with his slick technique and little tricks instantly conjuring an air of* Jogo Bonito*. Wearing the No10 shirt, Andreas Pereira is an entertainer on the ball, capable of building moves, laying on sublime assists and weighing in with goals of his own. "I have to admit that I feel closer to Brazilian football than Belgian football," he explained. "The two mentalities have nothing in common, the culture isn't the same and the football is different. The Belgium team are good, but Brazil are the best team in the world."
At U-20 World Cup level, the South American giants are certainly among the most successful sides in the competition's history. Brazil have appeared in 16 of the tournament's 18 editions, missing out only at Japan 1979 and Turkey 2013, and they have lifted the trophy five times – just one less than Argentina. Needless to say, Andreas Pereira is determined that he and his team-mates draw level with their arch-rivals. "We've come to New Zealand with just one goal in mind: the title. Of course we have to take every match as it comes, but that's our ambition."
Van Gaal praise
Although he is focused on the task at hand, Andreas Pereira has another burning ambition as well – to break through with the Red Devils. Chief orchestrator for Manchester United's reserve team, Andreas Pereira has not yet had a chance to prove his worth in the Premier League, save for a cameo appearance at Old Trafford on 15 March when he came on for Juan Mata during a 3-0 defeat of Tottenham Hotspur. "I'm very proud of my time at United," he said. "I think I did a good job this season and I was rewarded for that. I just hope it continues and, of course, that I get into the first team."
Crucially, the young Brazilian has United manager Louis van Gaal firmly in his camp. "Andreas has everything you need to become a full member of the first team," the Dutchman explained recently, when the midfielder put pen to paper on a contract extension. "He has natural talent combined with a real thirst to learn. I'm delighted with his progress this season and I can't wait to keep working with him to develop his talent even more."
The respect flows both ways, with Andreas Pereira thrilled with the direction his career has taken since he swapped PSV Eindhoven for United four years ago. "He's a great coach," said the Brazil schemer. "I like the way he acts towards me: he's giving me my chance. We speak in English, or sometimes in Flemish, and we really have a great rapport."
The youngster's time at Old Trafford has also been made easier by the attitude of his team-mates, with Belgian dynamo Adnan Januzaj and Brazilian full-back Rafael proving especially welcoming. "I have no problems with any of my colleagues. They're all friends, though Adnan and Rafael are possibly the two players I get along with the best," he noted, before adding with a grin: "But don't go thinking that's just because of their nationality."
Despite the protests, Andreas Pereira's Brazilian heritage and Belgian education have undoubtedly been vital to his development, blending to make him the talented playmaker who cannot wait to prove his worth in New Zealand. "I think I've taken the positives from all the cultures I've grown up with," he added. "They've made me the player I am today." The rest of the world is about to find out exactly what that entails.