The Ravelation: Morrison shines light as United’s dawn beckons

It is a year to the day since Ravel Morrison last pulled on a Manchester United first team shirt. Then Morrison impressed only fleetingly in a Carling Cup cameo appearance against Wolverhampton Wanderers at Old Trafford. The talent is undimmed in the past 12 months, even if question marks hanging over the teenager’s career have only multiplied. But Morrison’s return to Sir Alex Ferguson’s team offers hope for the player’s future, just as the Scot’s side took its first baby steps towards renaissance with a 3-0 victory over Aldershot Town on Tuesday night.

Morrison, all flicks and tricks during a 20 minute appearance at the Recreation Ground, has always been blessed with a gift in abundance. Floating between midfield and attack, with an awareness of space and movement belying his years, the 18-year-old impressed. There was the trademark easy-going flair – bountiful stand out arrogance, with just enough work-rate too – along with a pass exchanged here, a one-two instigated there.

The teenager’s second outing in the United first team came alongside fellow youngsters Ezekiel Fryers, Ben Amos, Michael Keane and Paul Pogba. The latter joined Morrison in central midfield during the closing minutes  and it does not take a crystal ball to foresee that proposition occurring regularly in years to come. Pogba’s classy distribution – long range and short – stood out. The Frenchman’s ability to also break up play offered some yin to Morrison’s considerable yang.

Morrison, meanwhile, will be grateful for the breakthrough after a difficult 12 months. The unease with which the player has drifted between potential stardom and seemingly more probable criminality has drawn more speculation about a United youngster than almost any in a generation. The genuine class on offer only adds to the intrigue. “Old Trafford’s Mario Ballotelli,” one commentator speculated this week. It is, of course, a gross over-simplification but one with some air of truth.

United’s decision to stand behind its errant youth star, despite repeated court appearances in recent months, is based more in hope than expectation. The hope that Morrison’s talent can be fulfilled at a higher level. He is, after all, the most naturally gifted Englishman since Wayne Rooney burst on to the scene almost a decade ago. The expectation, if truth be told, is that Morrison will find a way to waste all that talent.

Yet, the youngster’s appearance in Hampshire offered more than a ray of light amid the darkness following Sunday’s humiliation at Manchester City’s hands. The dancing feet and confidence of genuine class point towards a star in the making, even if it is one that needs careful attention. In hope there is redemption even if the noisy neighbours’ battering is not easily forgotten.

Moreover, United’s paucity of creative central midfield options – if truth be told any options – ensure the clamour for Morrison’s more permanent introduction is unlikely to die down. The player is not going to force his way into the United first team any time soon, no matter what the prevailing social media consensus, but hope is still a very powerful emotion.

If Morrison’s introduction offered some promise then United’s routine victory over the League Two outfit was only a small step in moving on from Sunday’s loss. Tiptoes rather than a great stride. Ferguson’s choice to deploy predominantly experience in United’s starting 11 said much not only for the “minutes on the pitch” that the Scot declare required but also of the need to not turn one heavy defeat into a full-blown crisis. Ferguson called for, and received, a professional performance. Little more, certainly no less.

Greater challenges are to come, both for Morrison and United. Morrison’s is to rid himself of the personal demons that have dogged a short career. If there is any collective malignant spirit it will surely be tested when United visits Everton at the weekend. Ferguson’s selection for the Goodison trip, with an easy Champions League tie to follow next week, should be close to full strength.

Yet, there are question marks about so many of the Scot’s squad that were not answered in the win over Aldershot. Is Rio Ferdinand’s number up; will Anderson be proffered yet another chance; is Jonny Evans now persona non grata. In Sir Alex’ admission that he has suffered no greater loss as a player or manager there is also a tacit understanding that he faces a huge decision at Everton. Should Ferdinand and Anderson suffer the expected fate – perhaps others too – it will be a sign that Ferguson has moved on.

Those questions are for the weekend. In the meantime United fans can bask in the afterglow, not of a minor victory over a lower league club, but the genuine light of a newly born star. The short appearance against Aldershot was not Morrison’s début but in a sense, coming more than a year after the teen’s first appearance for the senior side, it was a re-birth.

United and player both.

Sharing is caring

Comments

  1. @mufc_red_devils says

    Nice article but you may want to change the bit about him impressing against Wolves last year. He cane on for a minute and didn’t touch the ball!

  2. dozer says

    Anderson must go. United will need a defensive midfielder anyway.
    I rate Berbatov but if he’s playing only the carling cup games then he must go too.
    If United can get 20m out of the two of them then perhaps the club can buy a DM and keep some change too.
    Morrison and Pogba are no where near the first team. Perhaps they can go on loan after the Carling Cup.
    Edit: I’d send Pogba abroad on loan – I’m not sure about the company he keeps here. Perhaps a new country would help him reset himself?
    If he’s still iffy then there’s no point relying on him – it’s too much effort and United will do better to hand someone else those rare first team oppurtunities.

    Sir Ryan Giggs? No no no. Sir Paul Scholes say.

    • Will says

      If we are going to get rid of Berbatov, let’s do it before depreciation really sets in. At this rate he’ll be worth £9m next summer.

      I agree, Pogba needs a loan.

      Morrison, I’d be keen to see more of as a substitute in more winnable Premier League games before Christmas, perhaps a loan in January.

  3. RobDiabloRobDiablo says

    This seems a delicately balanced time for United. If Ravel gets his head sorted, will that leave him, Pogba, and Cleverley to vie for two of the three positions in midfield? Surely, none of them can fill the DM role. Of course, United may not need a DM once Jones and Smalling are playing at Centre Back and the Full Back positions get sorted. With a back four better than Barcelona’s or City’s, United might be able to get by with three midfielders who, while better going forward, will pay attention to their defensive responsibilities as well. Problem is, Jones, Smalling, the twins, Morrison, Pogba, and Cleverley are all at least a year away from being automatic choices in the first XI at their preferred positions. What will Sir Alex do in the meantime?

    I have to say that I hope it isn’t to spunk out £40M on Sneijder. While I would like to see him at United – not at that price and not on those wages, I think it would be a short-term solution with long-term negative connotations. £40M would go some way toward getting a very good, young midfielder and possibly a Full Back without destroying United’s wage structure. £40M spent in January might also mean nothing to spend in the summer. The Glazers aren’t made out of money, you know; they just live like they are.

    • Will says

      I think if United is going to continue to play more through middle this year, as opposed perhaps to previous years, where they’ve played out to the flanks more regularly, a definsive midfielder is key in a 4-4-2. This season it seems we’ve conceeded so many shots and been more open because our short passing game in the centre field keeps breaking down leaving the back four exposed. Just a theory (?).

  4. denton davey says

    RobDiablo @ 9:30: “This seems a delicately balanced time for United. … Problem is, Jones, Smalling, the twins, Morrison, Pogba, and Cleverley are all at least a year away from being automatic choices in the first XI”

    Maybe; maybe not.

    SAF seems to be willing to give kids a chance and while all of them might not reach the top, they will certainly get the chance to do so. If the Da Silva twins weren’t so injury-prone, they’d already be almost-automatic choices.

    Your comments about DM are intriguing since SAF seems to want to have width – two wingers – in preference to loading up the middle of the pitch. With attack-minded players like Cleverley, Morrison and Pogba, that’s creating a rod for his back against the very best teams – Barcelona, RentBoyz, and – alas – ManShitty – who play through the middle (the two other “top teams” – TheVirus and BayernMunich – play with wingers). In addition, both Cleverley and Morrison are lightweight. Ryan Tunnicliffe seems to possess the size and natural aggression to provide some sort of muscular dynamism in the middle but he’s probably even further away from first team selection.

    However, a year is a long time – at this time last year, Dimmy was leading the line, the GingerNinja was controlling the game in midfield, Edwin was in goal, and neither Rio nor Patrice Evra were considered to be just about past-it.

    Interesting times ahead – win or lose.

  5. RobDiabloRobDiablo says

    Commenter said:
    SAF seems to be willing to give kids a chance and while all of them might not reach the top, they will certainly get the chance to do so. If the Da Silva twins weren’t so injury-prone, they’d already be almost-automatic choices.

    The twins are a big question mark for me. The are young, fast and fearless, but raw talents nonetheless, and until they can stay healthy long enough to play game after game, that will remain the case. I thought Fabio did well at Right Back last night, but Aldershot Town hardly represent the stiffest of tests. When Keane came on and Fabio moved to Left Back, he did not impress at all. As I have written before, I do not see Fabio as the future first XI Left Back. Fryer looked good, though.

    Commenter said:
    Ryan Tunnicliffe seems to possess the size and natural aggression to provide some sort of muscular dynamism in the middle but he’s probably even further away from first team selection.
    However, a year is a long time – at this time last year, Dimmy was leading the line, the GingerNinja was controlling the game in midfield, Edwin was in goal, and neither Rio nor Patrice Evra were considered to be just about past-it.

    I keep forgetting about Ryan because I have only seen him play once. It would be great if he could fill the DM role. Also, I should have said season instead of year. I doubt that any of the youngsters I mentioned will be automatic choices in the first XI at the end of this season, though I’d guess Smalling and Cleverley have the best chances of proving me wrong – which I wouldn’t mind at all.

  6. denton davey says

    Rob Diablo @ 2:00: “I doubt that any of the youngsters I mentioned will be automatic choices in the first XI at the end of this season”

    The way SAF tinkers and switches – 165 matches in a row with a different team-sheet – there are going to be very few “automatic choices in the first XI”.

    I do wonder about Morrison, though. He looks like the kind of player who rises to the challenge at a higher level – or, plays better with better team-mates. He reminds me a lot of Kaka (c. 2004/5) who was a “glider” with effortless skill and an ability to make everything move faster.

    BUT, what would his best position be ? Surely not a midfielder in a formation that only had “2″ midfielders – more of a “withdrawn striker”, I’d think.

  7. reddread says

    I think we might be getting carried away over Morrison. Sure, he did OK the other night, but he only played for fifteen minutes or so against a League 2 side that were knackered after chasing shadows for 70-odd minutes. Don’t get me wrong, I think he’s a fine talent, but he has a long way to go, both on and off the pitch, before he has a chance of making the first team proper.

  8. says

    I liked the pun in the article title even if it is a bit too Guardian for its own good.

    Surely the point about the youngsters is not to assess whether they are or are not up to it based on a self- contradictory idea that you have to have league expereince in order to play in the league, or based on what they achieve in the reserves.Let’s try them out and see if any of them do not get neagtive ticks in any of the following boxes:

    (a) lack of awareness/intellience about how to play the game at the very top level
    (b) choking in very important games (such as getting oneself sent of a la Evans on Sunday, or missing the sitter goal against the same team that would have put us in the Cup Final a la Berbetov).
    (c) lack of the `we are Spartans’ football qualities such as mental fortitude, strength, commitment
    (d) having the skill but not being able to produce it on a consistent basis
    (e) not having the skill but someohow being able to convince a manager showing increased signs of delusion as the years take their toll

    If we have a youngster that is unafflicted by any of these, then we should play him in preference to whatever we have got — because what Sunday showed is that if we did the neagtive tick-box test on all those who took the field, we would find not one who has a clean sheet, who does not fall foul of one or more of these flaws.

  9. triggs says

    I saw enough on Tuesday to suggest that he should be well ahead of the likes of Diouf and Macheda in the pecking order. I’m sure Fergie must be torn between giving him lots of minutes – so he matures as a player and person – and holding him back so he dosent get too much too soon.

    With Cleverley, Morrison, Pogba, Tunnicliffe and also Jones (if needs must) we finally have some excellent midfield prospects – it’s just we need it now – not in 2013/14.

  10. RobDiabloRobDiablo says

    Commenter said:
    The way SAF tinkers and switches – 165 matches in a row with a different team-sheet – there are going to be very few “automatic choices in the first XI”.

    When I say automatic choices in the first XI, I am talking about the players who pick themselves when it’s time to play Arsenal, City, Cheatski, etc.

    • says

      Your comment has got me thinking> It’s abit like Sir Alex treats the team as a different jigsaw puzzle to put together when we play City from the one when we play the Dippers to the one when we play Arsenal. Thus Park was probably the first name he pencilled in when facing Arsenal : and here he appeared to get it right because Park showed himself to be the definitive anti-Arsenal player. Now I don’t think that’s what you or I would think of regarding `automatic’ choices. Say, for example, Berbetov for 2 games against reasonable opposition goes on a goal-scoring hotstreak and looks unplayable. The next match is against Arsenal. If you or I are managers, we would pick him in an instant, presuming that this run of form will continue against the Arse. Ferguson, on the other hand, is likely to come up with a seemingly strange kind of decision where (for argument’s sake) Owen is partnered up front with Rooney because he figures that Own is tailor made to exploit some of the weaknesses in the Arsenal defence. This means we never get players to develop the kind of combinative play that , when it worrks, seem like they are on the same telepathic wavelength and constantly outwiting the opposition. At the beginning of the season it seemed like Cleverley and Anderson were already striking up just such a partnership, when the injury to the former broke this up — but also got Fergie back in tinkering mode and starting to think that the team should be changed according to who we were about to play. This was not a huge success at Anfield, and I think the dip in morale coming off the draw and other not so good results played a huge part in what happened to the team on Sunday. Let;s think of our best XI and try to stick to it. But let’s not include in our best XI players who are usually brilliant against Arsenal but dismal against Chelsea or vice versa: lets try and create a team a firrst XI who will be good against anybody.

  11. RobDiablo says

    Damian – Some valid points there, but I think the problem is twofold: 1. Sir Alex needs to pick a formation and stick with it, 2. he needs to find the best players available to him to play those positions and create a proper first XI.

    As others have pointed out, the answer to problem one begins with abandoning any idea of that formation being a 4-4-2; United simply don’t have the midfielders to make it work. A 4-3-3 that can morph into 4-2-3-1 by adding a second striker to play in front of Rooney would be my choice.

    Solving the second problem will almost certainly require more (and significant) investment in the squad. Obviously, our biggest need is in midfield and, if we can only afford one purchase right now, it should probably be a DM. I also think we need a left-footed Left Back. It would be great if Fryers could be that player, but I wish he was ready now. I don’t think Evra is finished, but he needs a ‘Schmeichel’ – as in a two week holiday on the beaches of South France; the man is knackered physically and mentally, but can we trust Fabio and Evans to cover for him while he’s away?

  12. squigs says

    uncleknobheadforfucksake said:
    better than wilshere, quite a statement

    Well aware of that, in terms of natural talent and potential he is that good.

    Wilshire himself hasn’t exactly kept his nose clean but those stories haven’t got out like Morrison’s troubles.

  13. says

    I agree with you — but I think that it raises a question: there is pressure on us to play 4-4-2 because our flank players are really really good (and in Nani’s case, when he is on song, possibly devastating). But with such a weak central midfield the ball isn’t going to reach them — and, as Mancini smartly figured out in out-thinking Fergie tactically on Sunday, there is no one going to eithe thread balls through the central midfield or come storming through on a Keane or Robson-like run from deep.

    Don’t you think that means that we can’t really drop them (Nani and Young) to make space for extra midfielders, because extra midfielders are too crap, and therefore they will have to play a more fluid role. This is and isn’t a problem: it isn’t a problem because Nani can possibly play a more roving atacking role and because Young has already played in a more central midfield role and as a support striker. It is a problem, because sometimes Fergie, who has shown himself to be innovative and open-minded in the past, tends to stereotype players and not see the ways in which they could be employed and deployed a bit differently.

    As for the one player — a DM player: I would agree. But let’s get either the absolute best DM (in the sense of covering the back 4 and breaking up things in MF) on the planet whatever the cost, or an excellent DM who is also very talented when it comes to expressing himself a bit more creatively (in other words a complete MF all rounder). Again — the price is likely to be high. But the no-value in the market is wearing horribly thin and we are all starting to think — doesn’t this no value mantra not have something to do with the amount of value in Fergie’s pocket: the more Ebenerzer Scrooge he can be when it comes to spending on the team, the more wads and thicker wads the Fairy Godmother Glaziers are able to put in his pants pockets. We have to start geting a team together that has areas where it is conspicuously better than the team that beat us on Sunday, before we can get a team together that is conspicuoulsy better than the team that beat us twice in CL finals wioth such ease it was almost as if we shouldn’t really have bothered to turn up to play. Let;s start then with a United team that wins the lion share of midfield possession — and start refining the defence and waiting for the next really explosive attacking talent to become available and showing himself keen to come to OT for all the right reasons (The Glazers pasimony notwithstanding, we are allowed to dream).

    • Leif Sward says

      I agree about the DM. I sometimes wonder what might have happened had we gone through with the purchase of Marcos Senna instead of dicking him around and waiting a year for Hargreaves.

      Obviously things couldn’t have gone much better for the team, what with winning the league countless times and the champions league and all, but I think it could have made us better prepared for this shift to facing teams that set up like Barca, City etc.

      With the likes of Morrison and Pogba coming through as creative attacking midfielders we definitely need someone to form that platform. Who is that player though?

  14. Kaiser Q says

    I think it is a bit negative to say that he is expected to throw his future career away.You also make it sound like he appears in court routinely which is not the case. It is a bit overdramatised in the spirit of tabloids.

  15. Julian says

    I would like to see Morrison given a place on the bench in PL games. He is an outstanding talent. If you consider Jack Wilshere’s career, he was a regular at Morrison’s age – first for s season with Bolton and then Arsenal. Morrison appears to have just as much potential as Wilshere if not more. The argument could be made that he should go out on loan but Fergie almost certainly wouldn’t countenance that because he’d want to keep an eye on him – certainly for the foreseeable future.

    In the meantime what is neeeded is a ball winning holding or defensive midfielder. Anderson is really quite inadequate in that role despite, particularly with Cleverley, giving the impression that he could be a success there. Fergie needs to get out the cheque book in January if United are going to be really competitve for the remainder of the season.

  16. RobDiabloRobDiablo says

    Commenter said:
    …I think that it raises a question: there is pressure on us to play 4-4-2 because our flank players are really really good (and in Nani’s case, when he is on song, possibly devastating)….

    Don’t you think that means that we can’t really drop them (Nani and Young) to make space for extra midfielders…

    If you can’t play a 4-4-2 well enough to comfortably beat FC Basel and Norwich, you shouldn’t play it at all.

    In my version of the 4-3-3 formation, it is the second striker who misses out, so Young and Nani would both be in the side.

  17. squigs says

    Yeah it’s quite difficult to make up court appearances. Morrison would have been long discarded if he was only of average ability.

  18. shauno says

    Morrison seemed to cover quite a lot of ground in those 15-20mins. Kept tracking back then offering himself for the ball deep in his own half and linking in their third. He looked willing and arguably hungry for it. Get him and Pogba on the bench for part/most of the season. Don’t put them on loan stick them in the squad with Cleverly and watch them embrace it. Hanging around Rooney Vidic and Giggs is what these lads need.

  19. denton davey says

    Shauno @ 1:07: ” Hanging around Rooney Vidic and Giggs is what these lads need.”

    What, exactly, are Ravel and Paul going to learn by “hanging around” with TheWayneBoy and SirRyanGiggs – family values ?

  20. shauno says

    They will have the opportunity to “learn” what’s required to break into top flight football at a young age and be managed by the most successful manager in the history of British football.

Leave a Reply

Login with your Social ID

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *