Last Chance Saloon for Sir Alex’s finest academy prospect

Ryan Benson

Every once in a while a player makes the breakthrough at a football club and looks destined to become the “next big thing”. We remember their debut, their first goal, their international bow – all of a sudden they go from being a kid to a man having 40,000 strangers yelling at them week in, week out.

Marcus Rashford’s breakthrough at Manchester United last season certainly seemed to have an aura about that and, while he has been less spectacular this season, he looks to have the talent to carve out a career at the very top. Wayne Rooney went through something similar after breaking through at Everton.

Rashford was the latest in a long line of youngsters to come through the United ranks and impress, following on from the likes of Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, David Beckham and Paul Pogba. But, ability-wise, there’s one player who could have potentially been even better.

“He possessed as much natural talent as any youngster we ever signed, but kept getting into trouble.”

Sir Alex Ferguson in his book, Leading.

Rio Ferdinand had a similar line of thought in an interview with Copa90.

“This guy was the best young kid that I’ve ever seen in my life. Better than Joe Cole was when he was a kid. Pogba, Januzaj, Lingard… they used to look up to this boy.”

If you haven’t guessed by now that both of these quotes refer to Ravel Morrison, then prepare to be educated.

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A central midfielder who liked to get forward, Morrison in his days at United looked as though he had no limit as to where his career might take him. Not only did he have exceptional technical abilities, but he was hard-working and tenacious, even if he wasn’t necessarily a great tackler. Think of a blend between Scholes and Roy Keane.

But he also had the flair and dribbling skills of a young Ryan Giggs, not to mention an eye for a pass that would have been virtually unrivaled amongst under-20 players across the globe.

He went on to be the star in United’s FA Youth Cup-winning side of 2010-11, a team which also included Paul Pogba. In short, talent-wise he had it all. But what went wrong?

A lot. As a teenager Morrison found himself in court on several occasions due to alleged incidents with his ex-girlfriend and her mother, while he also admitted two charges of witness intimidation. It was said that the company he kept off the pitch left a lot to be desired.

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United became exasperated and when even Sir Alex Ferguson admits that he doesn’t think he can help you, you know things aren’t right.

After moving to West Ham United his career appeared to pick up again for a while, starting with a promising loan spell at Birmingham City. He became England Under-21s’ star man briefly, while also catching the eye in the Premier League upon his return to Upton Park. But it all seemed to turn sour quite quickly, with Sam Allardyce reportedly trying to pressure Morrison into switching to his agent.

Their falling out is believed to be what led to Morrison’s departure from West Ham and, although obvious comparisons were made between Morrison and Paul Gascoigne after he followed in ‘Gazza’s’ footsteps when joining Lazio, the move was a complete failure. He made only four league appearances in Italy.

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But now if finds himself back in England and at Queens Park Rangers, with whom he enjoyed a good loan stint with in 2014. The move should not only give him another opportunity for first-team football, but should he impress then QPR will be able to purchase him permanently.

Every English football fan should have their fingers crossed that Morrison performs well and begins to keep better company. Although his career may look as though it has been set back a few years, at 23 he is still young enough to turn it around and get back on track.

But at the same time it could represent something of a last chance for Morrison. In January he failed to secure a move to Wigan Athletic, who are coached by his former mentor Warren Joyce.

If he can’t persuade Joyce into signing him and things go wrong again in London, Morrison may find himself short of options at the end of the season.

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