Have Manchester United found the new Paul Scholes?

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Prior to Saturday afternoon, the last time Nick Powell had scored a league goal was during Crewe Alexandra's 1-1 draw with Torquay in April, in front of a crowd of 3802 at Plainmoor.

The 18-year-old has, however, since been catapulted to the very summit of the English game and celebrated his Manchester United debut last weekend with a maiden goal for the club, with over 75,000 in attendance at Old Trafford.

Despite his tender years, Powell already has somewhat of a reputation of finding the net from distance, and did so with the first opportunity presented to him against Wigan, having received the ball on edge of the area from Javier Hernandez.

The ghosting run, the deftness of touch and the quick release all had the hallmarks of one of Manchester United's all-time greats who, as it happened, marked his 700th appearance for the club with a display of trademark class.

Such are the supreme talents of Paul Scholes that following his retirement, Sir Alex Ferguson was only able to replace the midfield veteran with the man himself when he returned to action eight months later.

Ferguson strived to capture Wesley Sneijder from Inter Milan, but his efforts proved futile, and it soon became apparent that a worthy successor to Scholes was something of pure fantasy.

But, it would seem, United had been looking in the wrong places, for the man to succeed Scholes was not in one of Europe's most prominent divisions, but beginning his career in the depths of the English league structure.

There can hardly be a finer compliment to a midfielder - at any point in their career - than a comparison to Scholes and, thus, Ferguson's assessment of Powell would suggest the teenager is destined for superstardom.

"Nick Powell is going to be a really good player who, we hope, will fill Paul Scholes' boots in terms of he's got terrific vision, good temperament, two great feet, is quick and is a great striker of the ball," he told MUTV following United's 4-0 defeat of Wigan.

Talk about pressure being on a placed on a player who will not turn 19 until March next year but, if Ferguson says Powell can be the next Scholes, then he clearly means it.

Ferguson's comments are, of course, not without reason and Powell undoubtedly possesses a rare ability to contribute goals from midfield, both in terms of quantity and quality.

His playoff final strike against Cheltenham at Wembley is evidence of the talent he has for the spectacular, while 16 goals in his first full season as a professional represented an eye-catching return.

There can be no greater place for Powell to mature and progress and no greater mentor in Scholes, while the former Crewe starlet has also been taking advice from the likes of Michael Carrick and Ryan Giggs.

"I learn every day, especially from the midfielders - Scholes, Carrick, Giggsy - they're all great, they've all been through it and won trophies," he told MUTV. "That's what I want to do, so I hope to learn off them every day."

Powell has the capacity to develop into an invaluable asset for both club and country and his rapid rise could encourage Scholes to retire for good, with the 37-year-old safe in the knowledge he has overseen the ascension of his heir.


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