Andreas Pereira

As Andreas Pereira slotted home his penalty against Manchester City, Manchester United fans were certainly enjoying the moment.

The final result wasn’t to go the way that United supporters had hoped for however, as rivals City managed to score a penalty of their own in 95th minute to beat Fulham 2-1.

The newly promoted side now find themselves back in London for their next Premier League fixture, as they welcome the red half of Manchester to Craven Cottage.

Erik ten Hag’s side will be looking to get back to winning ways in the league, after former Arsenal manager Unai Emery got his tenure at Aston Villa off to a winning start with a 3-1 victory over United. That match brought a nine-game unbeaten streak, that lasted more than a month, to a miserable end.

Despite the defeat, the signs of progress under Ten Hag are undeniable, as the rebuild slowly begins to take shape. There were always going to be low points this season, as the defeats to Brighton and Brentford showed, and although one unexpected loss is by no means a call for crisis – it does show that United still have a way to go under their new manager.

Before the season started, United fans would have been circling the Fulham fixture in their calendar as an easy three points ahead of the World Cup break. Marco Silva’s side have surpassed expectations this campaign, as they find themselves in 9th place, with a win on Sunday seeing them move just one point behind United (albeit with a game in hand for the Reds).

Top goalscorer Aleksandar Mitrovic has been a huge factor for the London side’s success. The Serbian has netted nine times in 12 league matches this season, with only Harry Kane (11) and Erling Haaland (18) bettering his output in front of goal.

It would be foolish for Ten Hag to look beyond the 28-year-old striker when preparing for the match, perhaps even keeping half an eye on his performance ahead of the January transfer window, but there is a familiar name to United fans that the Dutchman needs to keep an eye on.

Following a loan spell in Brazil with Flamengo, Pereira left United for Fulham in the summer. The 26-year-old made 75 appearances for the Reds across all competitions, although he had not played for them for more than two years by the time he left for Craven Cottage.

The Belgian-born Brazilian has hit his stride in England this season, registering four assists and scoring two goals this campaign. In fact, only City’s Kevin de Bruyne has created more chances (45) than Pereira (34) this season – five more than United’s top creator, Bruno Fernandes.

Despite Mitrovic having such a superb season in the capital, he is currently joint 6th in the league for the number of big chances missed (7), showing that Fulham’s midfield, including Pereira, is providing their talisman striker with plenty of opportunities across their 90 minutes.

Haaland’s staggering scoring rate this season has left many to question if anything can be done to stop the 22-year-old. Preventing a supply to the Norwegian in the midfield and cutting off the chance at source seems to be the best way to go this term.

Although Lisandro Martinez has proven how gifted he is in his role as a centre-back, there is no denying that Ten Hag would much prefer the Argentine not to be called on too many times as the sole reason to prevent Mitrovic from scoring on Sunday. United therefore may look to approach the game in a similar fashion, by preventing the supply into their centre-forward from within the midfield.

United could do far worse than concentrate their efforts on stopping Pereira’s creativity in the middle of the park, as the former Red looks to showcase his talents and come back to haunt his old club.

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