The great success stories of the season so far have not so much been the big name deals that so many expected to flourish, but more so from the many rising stars that continue to ply their trade in the Premier League.
Ravel Morrison is emerging as one of these youngsters finally appearing to realise his potential after enjoying something of a rebirth at West Ham under Sam Allardyce.
As much as his recent rise to prominence has been great for the Hammers, surely it is yet another indictment of the way Manchester United have run their youth operation in recent years?
Morrison follows on from a stream of young stars that have left Manchester, for them to subsequently prosper elsewhere. Paul Pogba is probably the most notable of those to depart in recent times, but in the past we have seen the likes of Giuseppe Rossi and Gerard Pique move away and enjoy excellent careers on the continent.
The problem as I see it for United is that there genuinely seems to be a gulf between the youth setup and the first team. Whilst players have done well in the Academy, winning the U21 league last year was a sure sign of this, many have struggled to break through and ever get the opportunity at first team level.
Many may argue that this is because they themselves aren’t good enough, or that the United squad is simply too strong. For me this is rubbish, how can someone not be good enough for United but be adequate for Barcelona or Juventus?
This seems to be an attitude that actually encompasses the whole Premier League, but it appears particularly strong at United. I don’t know whether it is the managerial styles of Ferguson and Moyes or something more institutional but United of late have struggled to give their youth prospects sufficient opportunity.
Now this could all change, their apparent fall from grace of late may well necessitate change. The likes of Januzaj and Buttner to a lesser extent are finding themselves afforded more and more opportunity than what seemed possible before. Even so, Wilfried Zaha still finds himself on the periphery and another prodigious talent Nick Powell has been sent on loan at Wigan.
The tale of Ravel Morrison should act as a harsh reminder to United of the possible outcome that comes from neglecting their brightest stars.
Morrison was rarely involved during his time at United, a handful of League cup appearances were all that he had to show for his time there. Continually labelled as a troublemaker whose off-field behaviour often overshadowed what actually did on it, the midfielder nearly landed himself in jail following two counts of witness intimidation back in 2011. Morrison followed this with near weekly training ground bust-ups and shows of petulance to his superiors.
Ferguson afforded the youngster a lot more leeway than you may think, something that points towards the midfielder’s inherent talents. Yet even the greatest of them all couldn’t prevent this misdirected star from being his own worst enemy. Former assistant to Ferguson Mike Phelan suggested that his departure in the end was a mere inevitability:
“He needed to get out of Manchester,” Phelan told BBC Radio 5 live. “He has gone away from the club now which I think in hindsight is the correct thing to have done. It is easy to say we let our most promising player leave but is it worth the hassle to wait and maybe not see fruition to it?”
Sir Alex Ferguson ultimately sanctioned Morrison’s departure to West Ham, believing the midfielder’s wage demands to be “unrealistic”.
Allardyce appears to have finally given the youngster the platform to let his football do the talking. A series of excellent displays for the club have seen the U-21 international garner praise from all corners of the game.
As a standalone case you can perhaps understand United’s reasoning behind letting Morrison leave, but the problems come when you add it to the long line of talented youngster to vacate Old Trafford.
United have and continue to adopt an approach that just isn’t conducive to developing young stars. This may have not mattered when they had the imperious sides of the early 21st century, but now when they need help most they just don’t have those options to fall back onto.
Who knows the likes of Zaha and Januzaj may be the ones to give United a rebirth, but unless Moyes learns from the mistakes of the past I cannot see the club fixing the error of their ways.
Is this pattern emerging at United a worrying one?