Statistically, Tony Adams is the worst coach LaLiga has ever seen, taking zero points from a possible 21 during his brief stint at Granada at the end of last season.
Marcelino, on the other hand, is one of the best, having amassed 363 points out of a possible 729, a rate of 1.5 per game. Considering some of the modest teams he has been coaching during his decade of top-flight experience, such as Recreativo Huelva, Racing Santander and Real Zaragoza, that is a very impressive batting average.
This is hugely significant for Manchester United’s Andreas Pereira, who last played under Adams and who will now form part of Marcelino’s 2017/18 Valencia squad, having been sent out on another loan. The over-summer improvement in coaching is as drastic as when Georginio Wijnaldum swapped John Carver for Jürgen Klopp or when the Tottenham squad saw Mauricio Pochettino replace Tim Sherwood. While the cornerstone of Adams’ masterplan was to give his players “a kick up the arse”, Marcelino’s ideas are far more complex. If Adams is a ‘proper football man’, then Marcelino is one of the sport’s nerds.
Even before Adams took over the Granada dugout for the final seven matches of the 2016/17 campaign, the club was already in a mess, as evidenced by the fact they spent all but the first four weeks of the season in the relegation zone. So it’s little wonder that Pereira was reluctant to go back out on loan again, given the tough season he went through at the Nuevo Estadio de Los Cármenes last year. “It was a good season for me personally,” he pointed out to United’s website in a recent interview. “For the team, it was not,” he bluntly added.
Yet Valencia will be a completely different paella pan of fish for the 21-year-old. While they’ve fallen on hard times in recent years, not helped by their absent owner and by another disastrous English coaching appointment, Valencia seem to be on the up. In Marcelino they have one of the league’s best tactical minds and they have had a good transfer window, even if they had to wait until late on to get most of their business done. In LaLiga, they’ve had a very positive start too, defeating Las Palmas 1-0 on the opening night with a depleted squad and then drawing 2-2 away at Spanish and European champions Real Madrid in the fixture just before the international break. The atmosphere Pereira will experience should be completely different to that of the season before, while the chance to play at one of Europe’s busiest and most iconic stadiums every second week will be similarly thrilling – no offence to Granada’s Nuevo Estadio de Los Cármenes.
But what Jose Mourinho and Manchester United fans should be most excited about is the tactical apprenticeship the Belgian-born Brazilian will undergo over the course of the 2017/18 season. Marcelino plays a 4-4-2, which may sound lazy and like a default setting to British football fans, but which is a refreshing anomaly in LaLiga, where 4-2-3-1 is the norm. That’s what Granada played last season and it was in the No.10 role, just behind the striker, that Pereira played his best football, scoring four times in the 13 appearances he made as the team’s central attacking midfielder. At Valencia, though, that position does not exist and Pereira will be forced out of his comfort zone, which can only be a good thing in the long-run, given that he should return to Old Trafford next summer with more strings to his bow.
Already Carlos Soler, another young gossamer talent, is going through a similar experience. He shone towards the end of last season in that No.10 kind of role, but he’s spent pre-season and the start of this campaign learning how to play for Marcelino on the wings, both on the left and, more recently, on the right. While Marcelino has granted Soler some creative license – he often drifted in from the right wing against Real Madrid and scored a goal from inside the six-yard box – tracking back is not voluntary and the 20-year-old Valencia-born player has been gradually adding this facet to his game.
It is Soler who Pereira will likely be battling with for minutes and they are unlikely to play together, but rather work as a tag team, so these demands that have been made of Soler over the first two weeks of the season are surely going to be the same ones made of Pereira when he takes to the field. The fact that Soler is already evolving under the Spanish coach and is enjoying his football at the same time suggests the future will be as bright as a Valencian orange for Andreas Pereira too.