He has got a famous football name, but Whites’ teenage midfielder Ronaldo Vieira, whose brother Romario is also on United’s books, is determined to carve his own successful niche. Lee Sobot reports.
Ronaldo VieirA’S rise to the Leeds United first team last May was nothing short of meteoric.
Just two days after signing his first pro’ deal with Leeds, the 17-year-old was handed a debut in the Championship finale at Preston North End.
A star reflecting his name was born, with Vieira starting this season’s first three games under new head coach Garry Monk.
First-team outings have been slightly less commonplace of late, with Vieira’s central midfield role a position in which Leeds are hardly shy on numbers.
The presence of Eunan O’Kane, Kalvin Phillips and the soon-to-return captain Liam Bridcutt, mean Vieira faces a tough task to hold down a regular starting berth.
Yet the midfielder is thrilled with his progress at Elland Road, admitting he is already exceeding his own early expectations at Leeds at just 18 years old.
Former Whites Academy star Vieira was born in Guinea Bissau but raised in Portugal before moving to England when was 11.
Seven years later, the teenager proved United’s super sub’ hero at Norwich City on Saturday as his 25-yard rocket and first goal for Leeds sealed a dramatic 3-2 victory that propelled United into the Championship’s top six.
But there are at least six players genuinely competing for Vieira’s position at Leeds, with United’s squad housing an abundance of midfielders, particularly ones who are happiest playing centrally.
Even with defensive midfield captain Bridcutt injured, Whites head coach Monk has opted to start O’Kane and Phillips in the two spots just in front of the back four in United’s last two league games.
The imminent return of Bridcutt is about to make the competition hotter still.
But that’s quite all right with Vieira, who has still managed to make eight starts in league and cup this season, with the teenager honest enough to acknowledge that he is still learning his trade just six months on from signing his first pro’ deal.
Vieira then signed a new three-year contract with Leeds in September – emphasising the obvious esteem he is held in at Elland Road.
“It’s very good and I never thought that this season I would be involved the way I am involved with the first team,” Vieira told the YEP.
“It’s something different to me but I am trying to get into it and try and get used to it and it’s ben good so far.
“I think any player will tell you it’s hard to come on as a sub because the game is so fast and you need to get into the pace of the game coming on.
“But it’s good and to come on and make an impact in the game feels great.”
Matt Grimes, Alex Mowatt and the sparingly used Luke Murphy and Toumani Diagouaraga are other options in centre midfield, while even Ronaldo’s twin brother Romario plays in the same position. Romario also signed a one-year pro’ deal with Leeds in September.
“He’s been doing well and we’ll see what happens!” laughed Vieira, asked if his younger brother would be joining him in the first team at some point.
Vieira said of the midfield battle: “It’s a positive thing as well. We all work hard to play and the gaffer has got different ideas for different games.
“If he thinks that this player should play this game then he will play that game and if he thinks that there’s other players that should play another game then they will play it.
“It’s a positive way that we are able to compete with each other but we also know that it’s for the team first rather than individuals. It’s very good.”
Vieira certainly proved extremely good when coming on as an 89th-minute substitute for Pablo Hernandez during Saturday’s epic clash at Carrow Road.
United looked to have thrown away victory just one minute earlier when Kyle Lafferty fired home from an angle to draw a helter skelter contest level at 2-2.
But Vieira had other ideas and received the ball from a 91st-minute free-kick from Eunan O’Kane and produced an absolute pile driver that beat Canaries ’keeper Michael McGovern at his right-hand post.
“We never really gave up because like the gaffer always says, the attitude of this team is just unbelievable,” said Vieira.
“If another team had conceded that goal then their heads would have just gone down but the gaffer just said ‘keep your heads up’.
“As soon as they scored he just started clapping, saying ‘keep going, keep going’. Everyone kept going and happily we got the goal.”
Thanks to Vieira, United now have a play-off spot to shout about heading into the international break – but United’s young midfielder is refusing to get carried away. Victory at Norwich took Leeds sixth, only one behind fifth-placed Norwich. From being second-bottom in August, a win at Elland Road at home to leaders Newcastle United a week on Sunday would incredibly put Leeds eight points off top spot.
Vieira admits United’s squad are buoyant as a result, but the youngster is fully aware that Leeds are still only 16 games into a 46-game campaign.
“The changing rooms are absolutely buzzing and the atmosphere is good,” said Vieira.
“We can tell we are doing well but we can’t get ahead of ourselves because it’s too early.
“Everyone knows that and everyone is aware of that so we have just got to keep working hard and see where we get at the end of the season.
“It’s good and everyone knows that the atmosphere at the club is very good as well.
“Everyone is determined to work hard and keep working hard but also have fun as well.
“But because we are in the play-offs now doesn’t mean we are going to stray in the play-offs.
“We are going to keep working hard – that’s what we are going to do but we can’t get ahead of ourselves.
“We are just going to keep working hard and see where we get on.”