Tag Ravel Morrison

Tag Ravel Morrison

Oh, Ravel

January 31, 2012 Tags: Reads 42 comments

The great white hope is dead; long live the next over-hyped Manchester United youngster. At least that’s the prevailing message today, as revisionism kicks in among the United fan base. Indeed, Ravel Morrison’s move to West Ham United has ended one of the most enduring dramas at the club. While the transfer also comes as a huge disappointment to many who have followed the youngster’s career, it is also a truism that the club and fans move on quickly.

The hugely talented 18-year-old – billed as everything from the new Paul Gascoigne, to the best Englishman since Paul Scholes – will no longer represent United after agreeing a permanent move south. It is a move all too inevitable since Sir Alex Ferguson and the club’s coaching staff decided late last year to part company with young Morrison. But this is a story with no clear narrative, encompassing high finance, personal ambition, and one seriously challenged young man.

The bare bones are these: Morrison has moved south for about £650,000 up front, rising to £2 million should certain performance targets be met. With Morrison’s contract running down, United had no stomach for the lottery that is the transfer tribunal. West Ham have a low-risk talent who could bloom into something far more valuable.

Meanwhile, the player will earn nothing like the erroneous figures reported in the press recently, with Morrison’s starting salary of £12,000 per week only rising in increments to £65,000 should the player become a huge success and promotion achieved. Morrison must attain performance and playing targets over the course of a four-and-a-half year contract to earn the big bucks on offer. Agents Nick Rubery, for Morrison, and Barry Silkmann for the Hammers, have certainly done well for their clients.

The player, who was also subject to bids from Newcastle United – rejected – and Bolton Wanderers – accepted – this window, officially completed the paperwork around 9pm on Tuesday evening, posing for the obligatory signing photo.

“I’m really pleased to have signed,” said Morrison on completing the deal.

“The move has happened very quickly and I’m looking forward to hopefully moving up to the Premier League with West Ham soon. I’m an attacking player and I’m hoping to get the fans on their feet. “ met with Sam Allardyce this morning and he welcomed me to the club. I also played with Robert Hall in the England team and I know him well so that will be really helpful to have someone here that I know.”

The transfer details are the easy part though in the multi-faceted story of how one of the finest talents of the past generation has left Old Trafford. “Too good to fail,” MUTV co-commentator Paddy Crerand once said. Indeed, it is not without just cause that Ferguson has regularly praised the Wythenshawe-born player’s magic feet and superb balance. Talents, some may argue, wasted at Championship level.

Yet, here is a player with the world at his feet who too often gave the impression of caring little for the game that should make him a millionaire. While Morrison’s tendency to drift out of matches has improved, to some extent, with age, the player’s attitude to training has irked far too many at Carrington. Coaches, senior pros, such as Paul Scholes, and particularly Ferguson have all spent time attempting to pull the player back from the brink.

It hasn’t worked though. “I don’t know why the United fans rave about Ravel,” one youth teamer reportedly told fanzine United We Stand recently. “When he can’t even be bothered to get out of bed in the morning.” The player, having been told he would make the first team squad should he attend every training session for three months failed even that seemingly simple task.

Running concurrently through Morrison’s time at Old Trafford has also been a series of off-the-field problems, including two appearances in court for assault and witness intimidation, and a 12 month referral order. None of which had previously precipitated Morrison’s removal from the club.

Then came the move that often drives change: Morrison changed agents last summer, from Colin Gordon at Key Sports to Nick Rubery’s Prostar Sports Management. It was a move widely thought beneficial in Old Trafford circles. Indeed, Rubery had no part in driving the widely reported, but factually incorrect, stories about Morrison’s outlandish wage demands.

Surprisingly, Ferguson chose his pre-match press conference a fortnight ago to lambast the youngster for an “unrealistic” financial requirements. It was an unseemly smear against a youngster whose principle gripe in recent months has been lack of playing time in the first team. True, Morrison has only himself to blame for not making the first team picture. The talent was always there; the attitude perhaps not.

Ultimately is was United, and not Morrison, that chose the path that has led this multi-talent youngster not to the lights of Old Trafford, but to Upton Park. Rejection will hurt the youngster. Failure to turn Morrison’s life and career around will injure Ferguson just as acutely.

Strange then that Ferguson should choose to bring money into the equation when, by all accounts, the Scot was the last man standing in the Morrison camp at Old Trafford. Every other coach had simply given up on the player. But with the manager’s sponsorship of Morrison’s progress, also comes culpability. Failure here was perhaps simply too hard to take.

This is also a highly troubled young man, whose apparent links with criminality have never been far from the surface. At West Ham, under Sam Allardyce’s guidance, Morrison will find a close Ferguson ally. There will be no secrets left in the closet for the Hammers to discover later.

But moving a division lower, and 200 miles south, is a chance, or perhaps a sign, that the penny has dropped. Morrison’s talents will surely be on display sooner rather than later, with West Ham riding high in the Championship Allardyce.

The rest is up to the player. Far from home – far from the distractions of Manchester – Morrison may well find a new focus. Salvation, the player hopes, will come in East London. That is if the bright lights and loose cash of the London lifestyle does not get to the youngster first, cynics might add.

Here’s where the frustration comes in of course. If Morrison does make it to the game’s summit, with the accompanying wealth, fame and adulation, there will be more than a small corner of Manchester with a rueful smile. His is a talent that absolutely should grace the highest stage. If only he wanted it badly enough. If only the demons inside could have been defeated.

It is this regret – anger if you will – that has led to no little revisionism in recent days. Suddenly, gone is the great hope. Ravel, it is now said, is a “fool”, “stupid” or, worse still, “greedy”. None of this is true.

And with little delay, and no ceremony, Ferguson will move on. The fans will move on too. The new hero may already have been born, with French midfielder Paul Pogba putting in a staring cameo appearance against Stoke City on Tuesday night.

One eye will be on Upton Park though, with a secret hope that a newly arrived youngster will eventually live up to that huge promise.

Ravel Morrison reveals motivation for contract dispute

January 14, 2012 Tags: Just for fun 58 comments

“His agent has been working hard to get him another club,” Sir Alex Ferguson said of teenage prodigy Ravel Morrison on Friday. “We’ve offered him terms which he has refused, so that is where it is. His demands are unrealistic as far as we are concerned. We’ve rejected an offer from Newcastle and it is now down to how that progresses.”

Rant wonders what could motivate an 18-year-old to turn down the opportunity to play for his local club…

Ravel Morrison, Ca$h

Scholes’ return points to end for young Reds

January 13, 2012 Tags: , , Reads 25 comments

The news of Paul Scholes’ return to Sir Alex Ferguson’s squad shortly before the FA Cup Third Round tie against Manchester City seemingly provoked a wave of optimism among Manchester United fans, with polls across the web supporting the Salford-born midfielder’s re-integration. Manager, players, pundits and former Reds were all universally upbeat about the 36-year-old’s return to action too.

Indeed, following United’s 3-2 victory at Eastlands, former Red Nicky Butt drew attention to the psychological blow dealt by his former teammate’s return. “It was a smart move by the manager,” said Butt. “It took all the attention off [City’s] home record and switched all the attention to Paul Scholes.” In this respect, Scholes’ return certainly achieved its goal as a devastating first-half performance by United left the derby rivals looking shell-shocked before half-time.

“Paul is going to be a real positive addition to our squad,” claimed centre-back Chris Smalling, who lauded the longer-term effects of the midfielder’s return. “It gave the young lads a lift just to see him preparing for [Sunday’s] match.” These were sentiments shared by striker Danny Welbeck, who scored a smart volley to help ensure that Scholes’ return would be a happy one. “Seeing him in the dressing room just gave me a lift straight away.,” added the 20-year-old Mancunian.

For two other United hopefuls, however, the veteran midfielder’s return will have been far less encouraging. Paul Pogba and Ravel Morrison displayed terrific potential when helping the Academy team to FA Youth Cup success last year, and many supporters believed that this would be the pair’s breakthrough season. It was even hoped that Ferguson’s refusal to sign a central midfielder in the summer transfer window was due to youth team talent available. Certainly, the manager intimated as much.

Following long-term injuries to midfielders Darren Fletcher and Tom Cleverley, together with Anderson’s indifferent form, many believed that United’s young guns would be offered a chance in the first team. It was not to be, as Ferguson instead deployed 38-year old Ryan Giggs, defender Phil Jones, winger Park Ji-Sung and even Wayne Rooney in the heart of midfield.

But the final blow to Morrison and Pogba’s hopes this season has been delivered by the decision to recall veteran Paul Scholes, who despite not having played professional football for over seven months, is now firmly above the pair in Ferguson’s pecking order.

It has long been rumoured that contract talks have broken down with Pogba, who has once again been linked with a move to Manchester City or abroad in recent weeks.

“He [Pogba] has got an agent who’s obviously become a bit difficult, but we’re negotiating with this agent and we want the boy to stay,” Ferguson said recently.

“If he doesn’t want to stay, then there’s not a lot you can do about it. We have an option on his contract that takes us into a year-and-a-half away, so in that respect there’s not a great emergency about it. But we’d like the boy to sign a contract and, if he’d like to be a Manchester United player, then he knows what to do.

“You hope he gets the right advice, but it’s down to the individual also. Matt Busby summed it up perfectly, that you don’t need to chase money at a club like Manchester United, it will eventually find you. If you’re good enough, you will earn money and become rich playing for Manchester United. It’s one of these situations that they can chase the money early in their career, but at the end, it’s not the same as if they’d stayed here. He just needs to look round about him to realise that.”

Meanwhile Morrison Tweeted on Wednesday that he has not been offered a new contract to stay at Old Trafford beyond the summer. Thursday’s Telegraph reported that Morrison’s exit from Old Trafford “seems certain”. The only remaining question is seemingly whether the 18-year-old will stay until the summer, with Newcastle United reportedly having bid £500,000 this week.

“[Ravel’s] agent has been working hard to get him another club,” said Ferguson on Friday, contradicting the player’s claim.

“We’ve offered him terms which he has refused. His demands are unrealistic as far as we’re concerned. We’ve rejected an offer from Newcastle. It’s all down to how that progresses.”

Followers of United’s youth and reserve teams will have noted the exceptional talents on offer, even though reserve football is not always a reliable barometer of a player’s ability. After all, there is reason why interest in this pair of United starlets has come from across Europe. It leaves fans wondering whether Ferguson will let these talents slip between his fingers without giving them a chance in the first team.

Few will need reminding of previous departures either. Gerard Piqué, who left Old Trafford having failed to gain first-team football, has subsequently won almost everything in the game, including the World Cup, two Champions Leagues and three La Liga titles. The recently compiled FIFA World XI award saw Piqué line-up alongside former teammate Nemanja Vidić, leaving United fans pondering what could have been.

The same could be said of Giuseppe Rossi, who made it from United’s reserves to the top of the La Liga scoring charts and into the Italian national team.

To let one world-class prospect leave before his time was careless. Two was a mistake. Fans will hope that Ferguson knows something about Morrison and Pogba that they do not. For to let two central midfield stars of the future follow Piqué and Rossi out of the exit door would be unforgivable.

Poll: should Ravel Morrison be thrust into the first team?

December 2, 2011 Tags: Polls 38 comments

Ravel Morrison’s promising half against Crystal Palace this week, combined with a dearth of attacking creative central midfield talent, had tongues wagging at Old Trafford. Could the callow youth, known for his gliding style, quick feet and smart finish, add something to Sir Alex Ferguson’s first team squad? Morrison, who has been in trouble with the law on more than one occasion over the past 18 months, has now appeared twice in this season’s Carling Cup. But could the talented 18-year-old go further and press for a place in Ferguson’s side?

Should Ravel Morrison be thrust into the first team?

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The kids are… on the bench

December 1, 2011 Tags: , , Reads 5 comments

When Sir Alex Ferguson transplanted the ‘class of 92’ from the FA Youth Cup to a third round League Cup tie against Port Vale in 1994 the Scot pioneered the concept of blooding youngsters in the competition. Ferguson was subject to severe criticism for the move, accused, effectively, of devaluing the tournament. Today, few leading clubs roll out the first team in the cup’s early rounds, paying homage to Ferguson’s vision, while the media no longer questions the policy. In that there is a compliment to the Scot’s understanding of what we now call the squad game.

Yet, perversely, Ferguson has offered last season’s winning FA Youth Cup team few chances in the current Carling Cup campaign, much against the perceived norm, with the boss instead preferring to offer minutes to fringe senior pros. The most talented group of United’s youngsters for a generation is seemingly out in the cold when it comes to the first team.

This season’s policy must genuinely be a frustrating one for the youngster’s involved, with Paul Pogba and Ravel Morrison much talked about, but rarely seen in a first team shirt. Such is the wealth of Ferguson’s squad resources perhaps. But while Ferguson’s policy is pragmatic, balancing the need to keep senior players happy and match fit, it has restricted opportunities for those whose star is on the rise, while seemingly entrenching an age-based squad hierarchy.

Indeed, Ferguson’s Carling Cup policy this season, while pragmatic, could have negative consequences for half-a-dozen youth teamers, while offering little upside to the squad’s fringe.

Manchester United’s 2-1 defeat to Crystal Palace on Wednesday night is a case in point, with Mame Biram Diouf and Darron Gibson starting for the home side. Neither is likely to last at Old Trafford beyond the winter transfer window, let alone expect deployment in the important games to come during the run-in. In the pair’s selection on Wednesday Ferguson opted to cover his bases should a short-term injury crisis hit, rather than blood youngsters who may become United’s future.

More dangerous still, failure to offer younger players time in the first team this season may well lead to a talent drain. Much as Giuseppe Rossi and Gerard Pique left for greener pastures in previous years, so too could others if a path to the first team does not materialise. While Rossi and Pique have developed into stars of genuine class away from Old Trafford, Ferguson’s inability to find space in his team for the pair made the decision for both player and club seemingly straightforward. This backfired on club, not player.

Fast forward to the present day and Pogba’s frustration at a lack of progress in the past three years may yet play a part in the Frenchman’s stubborn refusal to sign a new contract with the club, even if the motivation for the currently stalled round of talks is primarily financial. When Ferguson claimed, earlier this summer, that he had not dipped into the market for fear of stalling Pogba’s development the Scot’s thoughts may have been more prescient than many first understood.

Yet did Ferguson, for example, gain more by ensuring Park Ji-Sung, Diouf and Gibson were a 90 minutes match sharper than he may have by handing Pogba his first start for the club?

Then there is Morrison, whose bright half against Palace was one of the very few positives to emerge from a disastrous result at Old Trafford. Historically the Scot gets very little of this balancing act wrong, but Ferguson will have learned little about Diouf, who will never make it at United, or Dimitar Berbatov, whose future is still the subject of speculation. Either of whom could have made way for Morrison’s first start in the first team.

Ferguson rejects this assertion, believing that the conveyor belt running from youth team, through reserves, to the Scot’s premier group, is looping at the optimal speed.

“The monitoring system here is good and there’s a lot of consistency with our Academy staff,” claimed Sir Alex in the new edition of Inside United.

“These are guys that have been here a long time and know what to look for. When somebody like Paul McGuinness comes to me and says: ‘He’s a first-team player’, then I know to keep a special eye on the player. From there, we’ll bring the boy into first-team training for a couple of sessions. That’s what we’re doing at the moment with Paul Pogba, Ravel Morrison, Jesse Lingard, Zeki Fryers, Larnell Cole and Michael Keane.

“That allows me to see how they cope playing against seasoned professionals, it lets me judge their temperament. It allows me to get a far better picture of how they’re progressing. And, while this is going on, you hope they’re playing well for the Reserves and displaying the right attitude and enthusiasm. Players are never simply thrown into first-team action.”

In posing the question of whether it is more valuable to play youngsters, or maintain squad morale and fitness, there should be no assumption that younger players are ready for the first team. Morrison and Pogba, for example, are not. But, with the pair retained at Old Trafford this season, there is little more either is going to learn from reserve team football alone.

There is, of course, much to learn. While Morrison’s off-the-field temperament has frequently come under question, Pogba has been singled out for a more limited range of passing than is acceptable for a first team player at United.

“He is a big, strong player. His skill is brilliant, as are his physique and speed,” adds reserve team coach Paul Scholes.

“The one thing that he probably needs to tidy up a little bit is his passing, but once that comes right, he’s potentially a top-class player. He came on against Leeds [in the Carling Cup] and did really well.”

Meanwhile, Ferguson described Morrison as a “very talented boy”. Neither is likely to see the first team again this side of Christmas. In the meantime Ferguson has bigger fish to fry in the Premier and Champions Leagues, with a run of six winnable games coming up domestically, and a crucial tie with FC Basel in Europe.

But come January and the FA Cup third round Ferguson may well again need to choose between his squad’s fringe, and his talented youngsters.

Time to take a chance

November 28, 2011 Tags: , , Reads 22 comments

In the past few weeks, despite Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson’s assertions to the contrary, it has become obvious that the club simply does not posses a central midfield pairing worth talking about. Despite the early pace set by youngsters Tom Cleverley and Anderson, United has few central midfield options that can challenge domestic rivals, let alone those of Barcelona. This is especially true since the pair’s lengthy injury absence took hold.

In contrast to Cleverley’s performances during the late summer, the growing dissatisfaction with Michael Carrick continues around Old Trafford. Although the Geordie’s performance against Swansea City 10 days ago was an improvement, it was a ‘needle in a hay-stack’ full of dismal showings. Carrick’s lack of pace and dynamism, and his predictability, remains a source of frustration for many followers of the club.

Indeed, even the once revered ‘Scottish player’, Darren Fletcher, has begun to bear the brunt of some criticism for his lack of guile and, at times, poor passing. Despite the Scot’s enduring endeavour, Fletcher has never been the most proficient player technically. Too often this has been apparent over the last two years. One can attribute Fletcher’s muted displays to a prolonged period on the sidelines, but what is now clear is that there is little more to come from the player that fans have not already seen. Fletcher’s game is no longer improving rapidly, and worse, his form has begun to stagnate.

Anderson and Cleverley started brightly this season; the pair was simply magnificent during August and early September. Cleverley was a breath of fresh air, while Anderson had seemingly found a partner who could bring out the best in the Brazilian. Since then both players have picked up long-term injuries. To many, Cleverley’s absence until Christmas could be the downfall of United’s trophy ambitions this season.

It is rare that a player is missed so much at United. Rarer still that this is true of Cleverley while he remains a rookie. After all, when Cristiano Ronaldo left the club, United survived. Ditto Cantona and a host of other stars. Yet, without the young Englishman’s presence, the Reds have seemingly very few options of quality.

Some say that Ryan Giggs return from injury could be the team’s saviour, but for many that sentiment is a sad reality for a club of United’s stature. Reliance on a 37-year-old veteran, who can barely manage two games in a week, to be the creative driving force says much.

Then there is youth, perhaps the only stone left unturned by Ferguson in the search for the right midfield balance. The Scot has forever championed the use of youngsters, yet Paul Pogba and Ravel Morrison remain reserve team players at best. To many supporters the situation is increasingly frustrating, with Morrison displaying more creativity against Aldershot Town in the Carling Cup last month than many of United’s regular central midfielders have done in years.

The much-troubled midfielder has been hailed by pundits as the best in a generation, yet is still waiting in the wings for an opportunity. Granted it is still early for Morrison to be thrust into action against the very best, but it is less obvious why the 18-year-old has not yet been utilised in games against ‘lesser’ sides this season.

Likewise, the highly rated Frenchman Pogba is under-used. Indeed, the teenager is reportedly considering his options due to a lack of first-team football after three years at the club. And where the French under-19 international might see the stadium lights at Arsenal once in a while, his chances remain few and far between at Old Trafford.

What chance, then, that the pair might start against Crystal Palace in the Carling Cup this week? While Ferguson name-checked both midfielders on Monday, the Scot has tended to use the tournament to offer fringe players some game time. After all, many predicted that Morrison and Pogba would start against both Leeds United and Aldershot in earlier rounds. They did not.

“Ravel Morrison was in the squad for Wednesday’s game [against Benfica]. He’s a very, very talented boy, of course, and he’ll possibly be on the bench, at least, in midweek,” said Ferguson.

“But I’ve got other players needing a game like Mame Biram Diouf and Federico Macheda. Chris Smalling has come back and I may be able to play him on Wednesday. He’s still young and it’ll be a young squad against Palace. The only area where I’ve got problems is centre midfield. It’s possible I could play Pogba in there but we’ll wait and see. I’ve got enough players to choose from, that’s for sure.”

“I think the League Cup has turned into quite a good tournament. Clubs like United are able to introduce young players and ones who have not been playing regularly in the first team and it’s been good to us over the years. We’ve won two finals at Wembley with young players, which is good going, and I think it’s become an important tournament for us in terms of getting the youngsters an introduction into winning and having an understanding of the progress they’re making.”

The issue is hot topic for many critics. The failure to sign Wesley Sneijder, or another leading midfield name, was always going to be Ferguson’s shortcoming this season. And while this may be true, if there are no players available at a price the club is willing to spend, then somebody else must be offered the chance. Yet, for many fans the sight, for example, of Ji-sung Park chasing shadows in the centre of midfield, or Wayne Rooney’s immense talent wasted as a defensive midfielder, is beyond frustrating.

It is clear that Cleverley has the potential to be one of the world’s best players in the years to come. The player’s handful of games for the club has already demonstrated all the qualities that Ferguson needs, even if the youngster has too often been injured in his short career. But as Cleverley’s rise illustrates, sometimes Ferguson simply must take a chance on the players at his disposal. Certain youngsters will hope the Scot heeds the advice this week.

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

October 26, 2011 Tags: , , Reads 37 comments

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.

Fergie lauds teen Pogba as Reds future but what of the present?

August 14, 2011 Tags: , , , Reads 58 comments

Manchester United’s failure to land a central midfielder this summer is with scepticism in many quarters, with the club’s inability to meet the wage demands of Wesley Sneijder and Samir Nasri pointing many critics towards a charge of Glazernomics. Yet, while United’s poor record the road last season was almost entirely down to a paucity of options in central midfield, manager Sir Alex Ferguson has chosen not to acquire new talent for the role this summer.

Far from meeting the challenge of Barcelona’s dominance in Europe, and Manchester City’s lavish spending domestically, some pundits believe that United may well have run simply to stand still this summer. Indeed, while Ashley Young offers a new flexible attacking option, David de Gea and Phil Jones are new-for-old replacements in Ferguson’s squad. The question of whether United is ‘net better’ from this summer’s transfer activity is yet to be answered.

Yet the 69-year-old Scot believes – critics might add he has little choice – that emerging youngsters can fill the void left by Paul Scholes and Owen Hargreaves this summer. Tom Cleverley’s positive 45 minute display against City in the Community Shield offers reason for supporter optimism. Meanwhile, 18-year-old Frenchman Paul Pogba is singled out by Ferguson as a real hope not only for the future but the coming season as well.

“We’re quite positive about him,” Ferguson said.

“If we hold Paul Pogba back, what’s going to happen? He’s going to leave in a couple of years’ time when his contract is finished. We have to give him opportunities to see how he can do in the first team. He’s got the ability, the physique and the athleticism.”

That athletic frame has drawn comparisons with Patric Vieira, a lazy analogy born seemingly of players’ similar French-African roots and height. Indeed, those who have watched Pogba’s progress in United’s FA Youth Cup winning side last season witnessed a player of significant finesse, quick feet and attacking prowess. The comparison with former Arsenal midfielder Vieira is one that Ferguson rightly rejects.

“He could be a surprise for us. I took him to the charity game in Monaco and he played 25 minutes in the second half against Marseille’s first team and he did very well. He got involved right away and I said to myself, he’s not bad,” added Ferguson.

“He’s a big physical boy. He has a great physique, 6ft 2in, athletic. The new Patrick Vieira? That’s just because of his height and build. Patrick was a great player but this boy is only 18. Look at Patrick when he was 18, he was playing centre half for Cannes. He only emerged as a midfield player at AC Milan.

“But I believe Pogba has the equipment to be successful. Seeing youngsters like him come through helps me, it helps us all. It’s still one of my biggest thrills to see a youngster coming up through the ranks. The kids are the foundation of the club. I think the foundations are looking good at the moment. This helps to drive me.”

Yet there is much work to be done if Ferguson is to fast-track Pogba into the first team picture. Despite his potential Pogba would surely struggle in the Premier League’s more physical encounters. Meanwhile, Ferguson believes that the former Le Harve midfielder must develop a greater range of passing if he is to make it to the very top.

“You don’t want to be putting the lad under pressure yet, but he’s got all the equipment all right,” added the United boss.

“He’s strong and athletic and he’s almost ready to be considered. We are just trying to work on his distribution. He has been playing a short passing game and we think he could do with a bit more range. We will be giving him opportunities this season because if you don’t use good players you end up losing them. We can’t hold him back, and wouldn’t want to do anyway.”

Along with United’s other great midfield talent in the FA Youth Cup winning side, Ravel Morrison, Pogba can expect games in the Carling and FA Cups in the coming season. Ferguson is almost certain to pick fringe sides in the early rounds of both competitions, with United entering the Carling Cup at the third round stage in September.

Morrison, meanwhile, is unlikely to be fast-tracked into the first team picture until the youngster’s many off-the-field distractions have cleared. The club’s willingness to protect the 18-year-old Wythenshawe-born player, despite multiple court appearances over the past 18 months, says much for the talent on offer; arguably the most fluid English central midfielder with the ball at his feet since Paul Gascoigne.

In Morrison, Pogba, Cleverley and perhaps Anderson – if the €30 million Brazilian can ever find some consistency – Ferguson has built with the future very much in mind. The players represent an exciting quartet of midfield talent very much in the United tradition.

Yet, for all that future promise the feeling that United has sacrificed short-term progress at the Glazer’s financial altar is inescapable. Despite Barcelona’s utter destruction of the Reds’ midfield at Wembley in May the Catalan club has acquired in Cesc Fabregas and Alexis Sanchez two talents of the highest order. That – Nani aside – no United midfielder would make Barca’s squad, let alone first team, is telling.