Joel Pereira is poised to make his first senior start for Manchester United on Sunday and the young goalkeeper is determined to live up to his manager’s expectations.
Jose Mourinho plans to name the 20-year-old Portuguese stopper between the posts in a youthful side that will face Crystal Palace at Old Trafford in the final Premier League game of the season.
Pereira made his first-team debut as a substitute in January’s Emirates FA Cup win over Wigan Athletic and, earlier this month, Mourinho said he could be “the best Portuguese goalkeeper of the next generation”.
“They’re nice words and now I need to prove that he’s right!” Pereira told ManUtd.com. “When one of the best managers in the world puts confidence like that in you, you can only feel good.
“I want to pay him back by training and performing well. I’m working hard every day and the next step is on Sunday, so let’s focus on that and we will see.
“It’s a big day coming up for the young players. As the manager said, some of us will get a chance and we’re looking forward to it. Hopefully we’ll get a good result, everybody will enjoy it and we’ll play well.”
Pereira, who joined United from Neuchatel Xamax in 2012, enjoyed a successful loan spell at Belenenses in his homeland during the first half of this season, before returning to Old Trafford in January when Sam Johnstone was loaned to Aston Villa.
“This season has been one of the best and most important for me, especially the first six months with the loan, which went very well,” the keeper continued. “I had some first-team football in the first division and that helped me a lot in my development – it was a very good experience. But coming back with the first team here was even better as I’ve been training every day with world-class players.”
Two of those world-class players are his fellow goalkeepers David De Gea and Sergio Romero, the no.1s for Spain and Argentina respectively.
Pereira added: “We enjoy working together a lot – they are two amazing goalkeepers and two great people as well; they’re good friends. Each day I learn something new from them.
“Anything I need, I know I can count on them and they will always try to help me and tell me what I can do to improve. We have a very good relationship and, when it’s the right time, we have fun as well.”