Football

Manchester United should have stuck by starlet

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When West Ham United's Ricardo Vaz Te said of teammate Ravel Morrison this week: "It's up to him to become as good as he can be" - it came as no major surprise.

Neither did the fact that Vaz Te, who grew up playing alongside several major talents including fellow Portuguese Nani, described Morrison as "the biggest talent I have ever seen".

Rewind less than two years and similar things were being said by the likes of Gary Neville and Rio Ferdinand at Manchester United, while Sir Alex Ferguson - who brought through a long-list of stars during his glittering 26-year spell at Old Trafford - reportedly told friends that Morrison, at the age of 16, was the 'best I have ever seen at that age'.

The significance of that last statement cannot be underestimated. Morrison was regarded by the academy coaches at Old Trafford as a genuine star in the making who would soon be good enough to walk into the Red Devils' midfield.

But at the same time he was being hailed by his teammates and coaches, the exact same people were also warning him to knuckle down and concentrate on his football.

Manchester United as a club was great for the Wythenshawe-born youngster; Manchester as a place was destroying his chances of becoming a professional footballer at the Theatre of Dreams.

And so it proved on 31 January 2012, when Ferguson and Manchester United made the tough decision to wash their hands of the most talented youngster at the club because of his uncontrollable off-field behaviour.

Morrison, in the view of those at United, could not be tamed. He would need to leave Manchester behind to stand any hope of making it as a top-level professional footballer.

Subsequently, Ferguson sold him to his close pal Sam Allardyce at West Ham, where he stayed for several months before joining Birmingham City on loan for the 2012/13 campaign.

In October 2012, there came a moment which almost finished Morrison off as a professional footballer. Lee Clark, the Birmingham manager, had run out of patience with the former England U18 international and seriously considered terminating his loan contract.

But, crucially, he stuck by him. And the gifted midfielder repaid him with performances on the pitch.

It proved to be the making of the 20-year-old, who is now shining at West Ham and no longer hitting the headlines for his personal life.

He's finally earning the respect of his teammates and coaches not only for his footballing ability, but also his markedly improved attitude.

And if this continues upward curve, it will always leave Manchester United fans asking what might have been.

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Topics:
Manchester United
Football
Premier League

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