When Spanish winger Pedro scored the winner for Barcelona in the UEFA Super Cup against Sevilla back in August 2015, he was hailed a Catalonian hero by the club’s supporters.
In the aftermath of his side’s glorious treble-winning season, though, the 28-year-old had expressed his frustration at being allotted a role off the bench for a number of years and despite having enjoyed seven trophy glittered years at the Nou Camp, he felt it was imperative for him to be involved in the rigours of domestic and European football as a regular.
The summer of 2015 proved to be a career-changing one for Pedro as he made a multi-million-pound move to Chelsea after famously snubbing Manchester United and then manager, Louis van Gaal. He made his debut for Jose Mourinho’s side at the Hawthorns against West Bromwich Albion and bagged a goal and an assist in a match-winning display. For United, who had struggled to score goals in the league till that game, it initially appeared to be a failed pursuit they would live to regret.
Their anxiety would last no longer than the duration of his debut, though, as Pedro never scaled the heights expected of him throughout the course of the season. A disappointing tally of just seven league goals, all of which were scored against bottom-rung sides in the top flight rendered his season a largely forgettable one. Add to that a league cup goal at Walsall and two assists and that represented poor value for money, given the calibre he had whilst at Barcelona.
With Chelsea suffering their worst season since being acquired by Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich, could there exist the possibility that in retrospect, Pedro regretted his decision to choose Stamford Bridge over Old Trafford?
Van Gaal may have failed to secure a Champions League spot but he did manage to steer United to the Europa League, not to mention his successful FA Cup run, leading his side to the ultimate prize for the first time in twelve years. In absolute terms, United had a much better year than their West London counterparts and could Pedro have benefited from making a more clear-headed decision back in the summer of 2015?
The answer, surprisingly, proves to be resoundingly in the negative. If Pedro didn’t enjoy playing for Mourinho and Chelsea, he would have felt a lot worse playing for van Gaal and United. Looking back at the course of a season in hindsight hardly helps as the brand of football up on display at Old Trafford was largely unpleasant for the United faithful.
Van Gaal set up a monotonous, languid blueprint for his side, involving wide players to stay confined to their tactical positions on the pitch and shoehorning strikers and attacking midfielders into less adventurous roles. While the following may have resulted in a more organized and compact defence, the lack of firepower in attack ultimately cost the side a Champions League spot, considering they were level on points with cross-town rivals Manchester City come the end of the season.
Van Gaal’s system proved detrimental to players like Memphis Depay, Ashley Young and unorthodox right-winger Juan Mata and their lack of creativity and power upfront would have sent red flags to any aspiring winger. Pedro, now 29, requires a more dynamic environment to operate within and would have strongly disliked the Dutchman’s regime. Although Mourinho’s second demise at Chelsea was triggered by multiple factors, a rigid style of football never filtered its way into the picture. All in all, it can be said that Pedro was an innocent newcomer in a highly toxic spell at the club and was rather unfortunate to have been part of it in his very first season in England.
Antonio Conte has looked determined to shake things from the ground up at Cobham and Pedro must prove himself to the Italian now. If last season was to be omitted from the player’s memory, would he have picked United over Chelsea? With Mourinho at the helm at Old Trafford, probably.