However, all the doubters were put to rest with the emergence of the young dynamo, Tom Cleverley who seemed to fit into the system well, filling well into massive boots left over by legendary Paul Scholes. Cleverley’s speed, agility, creativity and ability to hold the midfield had United race above the rest at the start of the season.
But since the 21-year old’s foot injury at Bolton ruling the young Englishman out for more than a month, the Red Devils have lost their way a little bit and are now found chasing their fierce rivals, Manchester City by five points.
Tom, however, did make a return to the first team but the former Wigan loanee suffered another injury at Everton last month in his first game back ruling him out further until Christmas. Since Cleverley has been out, United have rather been poor and if such displays continue, City may well have the title wrapped up by Christmas.
So, in order to replace ‘Scholescy’ and have United playing the fluid ‘United way’ again, what will Sir Alex do?
When asked this question in the summer, pointing to the marvellous group of youngsters coming through the ranks, Sir Alex said, "Maybe the next few weeks will help us overcome (the Scholes retirement) it. Maybe somebody will emerge out of the youth team or one of the young players emerge, and then we carry on."
So, is the current crop of youngsters that good?
Well, the man himself, Paul Scholes thinks so and regards them better than his ‘Class of 92’. Speaking about the United youth players who have recently won the FA Youth Cup, Scholes said, “We’d struggled a bit in the Youth Cup since then 1992. But this group look like they’re ready to go into the first-team now, because they’re big, strong, powerful lads and have the skill to go with it.”
Of United’s current crop of youngsters, Scholes - who has agreed to take on a coaching role at the club - identified attacking midfielder Ravel Morrison as his pick of the bunch. “We’ve trained with Ravel and we know what talent he’s got - hopefully [he will fulfil it]”, remarked the former English International.
Ravel Morrison, who?
Morrison - who was astonishing against Wigan’s reserves a couple of weeks back in a performance when he even bagged a stunning goal - is a midfielder who can play through the middle, as a playmaker, on either wing, in behind the striker or even has an ability to sit deep. His style of play makes him best suited to playing as one of three in the middle of a 4-5-1 as he likes to roam and float around. Although he is notoriously hard to mark as he tends to pull opposition players out of position but due to that, he is also overly reliant upon other midfielders doing a lot more work to fill in gaps that he has vacated.
One of his specialties is his ability to spring counter attacks so quickly by sitting deep. He also times his runs into the opposition penalty area very well and is particularly good at halting a run to find space just on the edge of the area, a reason why he scores so many Scholes-esque goals. Ravel embodies a street footballer who has succeeded in translating carefree showboating to passing the acid test of one of world football’s biggest clubs.
Therefore, his style of play can see him play either as a box to box midfielder in the centre of the park in a conventional 4-4-2 formation or as a partner to Rooney, in behind Hernandez in a 4-3-2-1 formation, which Sir Alex famously employed during the Cristiano Ronaldo era, winning the Champions League in 2008.
Brian Marwood, Manchester City’s football administrator, who has been put in charge of cultivating City’s next set of stars at their Platt Lane academy and in a recent interview, speaking of the youngster who is born in Wythenshawe in Manchester on the 2nd February 1993, he stated, “Probably the most gifted teenager in the country is Ravel Morrison at Manchester United.”
Huge, isn’t it? Especially, considering that it’s coming from a man from the blue contingent of Manchester.
More so, the United fans are going ‘gaga’ over Morrison, by making comments like – ‘Who needs Messi when we have Morrison?’
Now, that may be a bit over the head but seriously, if such a talent exists at Old Trafford, in ordinary circumstances, it must be a time for celebration in regards to a prodigious footballing career. But, unfortunately, there is a twist to the Morrison story:
Throughout his schooling, he has had disciplinary problems, resulting in suspensions and expulsions. His home life was equally disruptive. Since his time at United, he has been involved in a number of behavioural issues: Threatening other players, threatening opponents, getting involved in fights, alleged gang activity, and subsequently witness intimidation. He was recently arrested by police for being in a car carrying weapons and drugs. The young midfielder has also been charged with assaulting his girlfriend and causing criminal damage.
But in spite of all the charges, under the guidance of United’s coaching staff, he has shown signs of improvement that got the Guardian Journalist, Daniel Taylor to remark (after his court case, where he escaped imprisonment), “At his court case this week he was in a suit, he hadn’t brought any of his hangers-on with him and, overall, he just seemed a little bit older and wiser. The reports from the youth offending team were all positive and – if it was genuine – there was no longer that sense that he thought he was untouchable.”
If Sir Alex ever wondered ‘had he’ grabbed Rooney five years prior to when he actually signed him, then, this is a real chance for him to guide a talented player to even a better career.
With Daily Telegraph’s Henry Winter hailing him as a better footballer than Jack Wilshere and considering that United are yearning for a playmaker, and suffer from a shortage of guile in midfield, he possibly should have cemented a berth in the first-team squad already.
Considering Anderson is out until February, with Phil Jones and Ashley Young – both of whom can play in the central midfield - recently signed by Sir Alex Ferguson and central midfielders in Darren Fletcher, and Michael Carrick already amongst the ranks, testing out Morrison may not be the worst decision.
Even if United are to make any new signings, January is still a long way to go and Cleverley’s injury really shouldn’t be looked on as a calamity but a chance to see a promising home grown talent with bags of undeveloped potential that if given decent first team opportunities and if developed properly, may reach unparalleled heights, and as it has always happened at Old Trafford, youths are always given a chance to prove their worth.
One of Sir Alex’s great attributes is that he knows when the time is right to give a player his ‘chance’ and no matter how young he is, he may well be worth a shot. As Sir Matt Busby once said, “If they’re good enough, they’re old enough.”