Hearts seal loan deal for Man Utd goalkeeper Joel Pereira while Ryotaro Meshino remains an option

Hearts' new loan signing Joel Pereira in action during a Manchester United training session in Shanghai last month. Picture: Manchester United via Getty
Hearts' new loan signing Joel Pereira in action during a Manchester United training session in Shanghai last month. Picture: Manchester United via Getty
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Hearts have addressed their goalkeeping concerns by signing Joel Pereira from Manchester United on a season-long loan.

The Portugal Under-21 international joined the Old Trafford club in 2012 and has made three appearances for the English Premier League side, but has been farmed out to the Edinburgh club to gain more first-team experience. He will immediately come into contention for a starting berth in Friday’s hugely important Betfred Cup tie, against Motherwell at Fir Park.

Swiss-born, the 23-year-old has enjoyed previous loan spells at Belenenses and Vitoria Setubal, in Portugal, as well as Kortrijk in Belgium for the second half of last season.

The Gorgie club already have two goalkeepers on the books and Zdenek Zlamal and Colin Doyle spent last term vying for the starting slot in Craig Levein’s team.

Doyle recently signed a contract extension but it is Czech Zlamal, whose current contract expires next summer, who had been getting the nod this season, starting all six competitive matches. But the defensive record was not as miserly as the teams they should have been competing with for the European slots and the 33-year-old’s form has been troubling this term. Against Ross County, on Saturday, he was unconvincing and looked to be lacking in confidence and with such an important cup match on the horizon and fans growing increasingly unhappy with the way football matters have been panning out since the turn of the year, the Hearts boss moved swiftly to tie up his sixth signing of this transfer window.

And although Pereira joins the club a few weeks into the new campaign, the new arrival insists he is fit and ready to start on Friday, if selected.

“I spoke with the staff at Manchester United and the idea was for me to get out there on loan and get as many minutes as I can,” said Pereira. “I’m fitter than ever. I knew that I was going on loan, so I knew that I had to be sharp and be ready for whatever was coming up. Now I’m here, fitter than ever and I’m hungry for more and can’t wait to get started.”

The club have history with the Old Trafford side, having brought full-back Demetri Mitchell to the club for a couple of short-term loan spells and, having established that relationship, the sides were happy to agree what they hope will be another mutually beneficial deal.

Hearts are also edging closer to the finishing line in their race to enlist the services of Republic of Ireland international Glenn Whelan. The former Aston Villa player is a free agent and with both parties all but settled on the terms of the contract, the deal is expected to be concluded within the next 48 hours.

That would leave Levein chasing one last signing of the summer, which could be Manchester City youngster Ryotaro Meshino. The club are still exploring the possibility of recruiting the Manchester City loanee, who was in the capital to take in the Ross County match.

The 21-year-old attacking midfielder, who joined the English champions this summer but is being farmed out to gain first-team experience in the UK, would enhance the club’s creative options but there remains work to be done to get the deal over the line.

But with Steven Naismith struggling with a tight hamstring, which curtailed his involvement in only his second game back from a knee injury, Meshino would help link the midfield and the front line and give them a route through the middle of the park rather than lofting long balls forward as they did in their last outing, much to their manager’s consternation and the ire of the Gorgie support.

Playing for his hometown team, Gamba Osaka, Meshino scored three goals in 12 J-League appearances for them last season. While Pereira and Loic Damour, another recent signing, could help strengthen the team’s backbone, an injection of new ideas and a spark of invention further up the field could also help ease the squad jitters and assist them in getting back to winning ways and relieve some of the pressure.