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Andreas Pereira or Nemanja Matic: Who should start for Manchester United?

Nemanja Matic’s arrival brought solidarity and a sense of leadership to a pretty young Manchester United midfield. He was arguably one of the best players for the club last season, and should have been a strong contender to notch the Player of the Season award.

However, as Andreas Pereira returned from his successive loan spells at Granada and Valencia respectively, Jose Mourinho has transformed the Brazilian to play in a deeper, holding midfielder role for United.

As Matic missed the preseason and the early portions of the current season due to a minor abdominal surgery, Pereira is being utilized in that role and it is safe to say that the 22-year-old has impressed with his performances. Here, I try to analyze both players and decipher which one of them should be starting more matches:

Nemanja Matic

The Serbian midfielder is an intelligent reader of the game and a physically dominant presence at the centre of the park. He is quite smart with his positioning and breaks attacks by putting in appropriate tackles. His decision-making during such scenarios is quite accurate, as Matic hardly ever mistimes his challenges, and is an assuring figure to have in the team.

His tall stature coupled with equally strong physical attributes mean that Matic can overpower his adversaries. The Serbian international is aerially dominant too, but there is some aspects of his game that hold United back in the midfield. Despite his composed presence on the ball, Matic hardly makes any forward forays.

 It is understandable that his role is completely defensive, but the 30-year-old’s passing range is uninspiring, and hence United fail to create many opportunities through the centre.

It's easy to forget Nemanja Matic was one of our best players last season. There should be no hate for him coming back into the team when he's fit. Pereira should be used for rotation when Matic needs rest, something he never got last season. Our midfield is in very good hands.

— Mikey (@Prime_MUFC) August 19, 2018

When Nemanja Matic returns to this #MUFC team… pic.twitter.com/fzGnFBOaPh

— Aaron Stokes (@AaronJStokes) August 19, 2018

We are so disorganised, we need nemanja matic. That guy just has some crazy composure that helps us control the game.

— Capt. Mansoor Rwijema (@MRwijema) August 19, 2018

He tends to struggle against an opponent with fleet-footed midfielders, and hence it is seen that he plays best while playing in a three-man midfield, when Matic has the support of another player to share the defensive responsibilities. Nevertheless, he adds stability to the midfield, and is a calming influence in matches whenever required.

Many times last season, Matic dropped back to play as a centre-back when Mourinho introduced a forward in the place of a defensive player in order to chase the opponent.

 This highlights his strengths, that is his ability to carry out any task assigned by the manager and the versatility that Matic possesses on the field.

Moreover, due to his sheer experience, Matic is somewhat of a leader in this team, as Mourinho said that he would be an ideal candidate to wear the captain’s armband, but having arrived just a year earlier, it would be too soon to give him this responsibility on a permanent basis.

 

Andreas Pereira

Andreas Pereira returned from loan and has endured a successful preseason in which he displayed his talents to cement his spot in Matic’s absence. After having spent two years out on loan, Pereira’s technical abilities have improved a lot. More importantly, he adds another much-required dimension to United’s current midfield setup.

The former Valencia player does not possess the physical attributes of Matic, but his close-control and forward passing range is impeccable. Quite opposite to the midfield enforcer role that Matic plays in, Pereira is more of a deep-lying playmaker with a unique skill set that adds more dynamism to United’s attacking moves.

For the first time in 100 years and only the fourth time in history, a player born outside of Brazil has been called up to the national side.

That man is Andreas Pereira! pic.twitter.com/NZs2tfbFy2

— FourFourTweet (@FourFourTweet) August 17, 2018

Andreas Pereira has been an absolute pleasure to watch!

— Kenji Gorré (@KenjiGorre) August 10, 2018

Andreas Pereira has looked very promising in that Michael Carrick role.

— Pilib De Brún (Phil Brown) (@Malachians) August 10, 2018

He has certainly improved his defensive qualities, as Pereira looks to win the ball back by staying close to the opponent. Furthermore, he is agile and quick enough to track the opposition’s moves. His tendency to pick out wingers and forwards on the move with accurate long passes is a unique feature of his gameplay.

 

Pereira is defensively responsible, and always looks to facilitate offensive moves too. Moreover, he can play in a variety of positions, as Pereira can shift to wider areas or could play anywhere through the centre.

He possesses certain flair in his game that could dictate the tempo of the proceedings with numerous passes. Pereira has a knack of picking incisive passes that breaches the opposition’s backline, and he does that whilst fulfilling his defensive responsibilities.

Who should be the first-choice starter between the two of them?

Matic and Pereira, both of them have the manager’s support, but it is important to understand that both these players could be utilized in different situations of the game.

 Pereira’s creativity and the ability to play the ball out from cramped spaces would be beneficial against teams that sit deep and frustrate the opposition with their low-block approach.

 

Last season, United struggled against the likes of Burnley, West Bromwich Albion and Newcastle, as these teams adopted an extremely defensive approach to deny United any goal-scoring opportunity.

Pereira’s qualities would be best utilized against the lower-ranked opponents. However, Matic’s reliability, and the steel that he provides to the midfield would be essential against opponents like Liverpool and Manchester City who trouble their oppositions with incessant waves of attacking moves.

The former Chelsea man could be expected to break the play and circulate the possession, whilst leading the backline and defence together, being the senior player in those departments.

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