Many exceptional talents have come through Manchester United’s youth academy.
From the Class of ’92, which featured David Beckham, Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, Nicky Butt and the Neville brothers, to the current crop that includes potential gems Marcus Rashford, Cameron Borthwick-Jackson and Donald Love, United have a long, storied history of nurturing young stars.
However, for every Beckham is a Paul Pogba; one young talent who got away. In Pogba’s case, Sir Alex Ferguson failed to recognise the Frenchman’s potential and allowed him to leave Old Trafford as an 18-year-old.
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Another youngster United fans didn’t see the best of is Ravel Morrison, the creative attacking midfielder whose off-the-field issues have prevented him from becoming a world-class talent.
In his autobiography Leading, Ferguson admitted Morrison’s demise was the “saddest case” he has dealt with. He left United in 2012 and has failed to fulfil his potential elsewhere, appearing for West Ham, Birmingham City, Queens Park Rangers, Cardiff City and Lazio.
It’s a case of what might have been for United. If Morrison had sorted his issues out, and Ferguson hadn’t sold Pogba, we might be calling them Premier League champions.
So talented was the former England Under-21 international that Pogba used to idolise Morrison in training, according to United hero Rio Ferdinand.
Speaking to Copa90, Ferdinand revealed how Morrison would leave him awestruck in training.
“Mentality, for me, outweighs talent,” the former defender said, per Goal.
“Look at Ravel Morrison, this guy was the best young kid I’ve ever seen in my life. Better than Joe Cole when he was a kid, he was doing circus tricks on a football pitch.
“Ravel Morrison - I’ve never seen a guy look so comfortable on a football pitch. But you can’t just have one element without the other, you’ve got to have everything.
“I’d love to see him have a chance again to come back and show everyone his talent. The kid was just different.
“Pogba, [Adnan] Januzaj, [Jesse] Lingard, they used to look up to this boy. That’s what I’m saying, people don’t realise how good he was. Them boys used to look up to him like ‘woah, Ravel Morrison’.”
Struggles in Italy
Now 23, Morrison played just 60 minutes in Serie A this season after joining Lazio last summer. His coach, Stefano Pioli, criticised his effort just months after the midfielder arrived - he’s not the first to highlight this problem - and inability to speak Italian.
So what’s next for Morrison is anyone’s guess. A move to more familiar surroundings in England could happen, or he could stick around and strive to emulate Paul Gascoigne and Paolo Di Canio, two eccentric players who became fan favourites at the Stadio Olimpico.