Hearts keeper Joel Pereira aims to be No 1 at Manchester United

Hearts'on-loan keeper Joel Pereira is following the work ethic of his hero, Cristiano Ronaldo. Picture: SNS.
Hearts'on-loan keeper Joel Pereira is following the work ethic of his hero, Cristiano Ronaldo. Picture: SNS.
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Cristiano Ronaldo’s blithe disregard for the role of a goalkeeper can be demonstrated by the 700 goals he has scored against them.

To the men wearing the gloves, he is their arch nemesis.

However, as a fellow Portuguese, on-loan Hearts shot-stopper Joel Pereira cannot help but be inspired by the ridiculously sublime and irrepressible Juventus forward.

In a career already decorated with team and personal landmarks, Ronaldo, below, reached yet another last Monday evening when his goalscoring exploits hit its latest milestone – his 700th career goal – in his country’s 2-1 defeat by Ukraine.

With his Adonis-like physique, Ronaldo’s elevation to one of football’s greatest ever showmen via former clubs Sporting Lisbon, Manchester United and Real Madrid is no fluke.

The 34-year-old’s dedicated and methodical approach to his profession is renowned throughout the footballing fraternity.

It is this kind of attitude that Pereira is attempting to adopt as he undertakes the unenviable task of trying to dislodge current Red Devils number one David de Gea, the Spaniard who is widely regarded as the best keeper on the planet.

“Ronaldo is an image for every footballer,” said Pereira, who is set to make his seventh appearance for the Edinburgh side in today’s visit of Rangers, a figure that would have been higher had it not been for a thigh strain.

“His records don’t just show how good he is, but also how hard he’s worked.

“We should see him as an example to follow. Not just kids but every footballer, for what he’s achieved.

“He always wants more. That’s what footballers should look at. When you’ve had a good season, you shouldn’t stop and think you’ve made it.

“So we should look up to him. Even as a goalkeeper, I still see him as an example. It’s not because of the position he plays, it’s more about him as an athlete.

“As a Portuguese man, he’s a hero to all of us.”

Pereira still harbours hopes of being handed the No 1 jersey at Old Trafford, at de Gea’s expense, even though the Spain internationalist has just signed a new deal that ties him to United until 2023.

“Cristiano has shown that a positive mentality, focus and hard work every day will make you get there,” remarked Pereira.

“I’ll need that same mentality if I’m going to make it at Manchester United, definitely.

“I will always dream I can get there. To be in a big club you need to have big hopes and a positive mentality. If you don’t think positive of yourself you will have zero chances to make it.”

“I’m someone who also likes to work hard and it’s important to stay focused on what you want to achieve.

“I will always wish that I can make it at United. That is my dream so I will always be positive about that.”

Pereira is perhaps getting more of an all-round football experience than he anticipated. Aside from his aforementioned niggling thigh injury, the Swiss-born player is getting minutes under his belt and is quickly having to become accustomed to a restless phalanx of Hearts supporters who are not shy in demonstrating their feelings amid an underwhelming run of form under the stewardship of Craig Levein.

That reached crisis point when hundreds of fans protested outside the main stand in the wake of last month’s defeat by Motherwell.

“The atmosphere of the fans surprised me in a good way,” said Pereira. “I can feel that here in Scotland people really live for football.

“Hopefully I can grow from here. After a year, hopefully after a great season, it’ll then be time to think about going back to Manchester again.

“I feel like the team have a lot of quality and great potential.

“I’m sure it’s a moment we’re just going through, I’m sure we’ll come out back on top. I’m very pleased to be here and it was important for me to play week-in, week-out.

“I thank the manager for this opportunity. I am enjoying every minute of it. “

Manager Levein, meanwhile, says he is a huge admirer of Jermain Defoe, the Rangers striker who has already notched 12 goals for the Glasgow club this term.

An additional benefit of the former England internationalist’s presence at Ibrox is the valuable guidance he can offer his younger team-mates.

Levein is an advocate of recruiting players he describes as “leaders” in the changing room, people such as Christophe Berra, Steven Naismith and Glenn Whelan.

The former Scotland manager is in no doubt that Defoe’s influence extends well beyond the white lines of the pitch.

“I don’t know the guy but anyone I know who knows him talks about him being a very good professional,” said Levein, who is equally wary of 14-goal Rangers marksman Alfredo Morelos.

“He’s certainly fit and a very, very intelligent player.

“In that Hamilton game, I thought Defoe was fantastic.

“He (Rangers manager Steven Gerrard) very rarely puts the two of them in the same team together, so I think one of them will play.

“Morelos has been away with Colombia, but I don’t know. Defoe’s definitely added something to their front line. He’s a quality player.”