Nick Powell at Manchester United: Expect nothing and everything

The universe demands that every young player serious about a successful career with the big boys have their moment first; the one tabloid writers can reference as the time they burst onto the scene, almost in ignorance to the wider picture, forgetting that they are where they are not solely because of this moment, but because of the hard work that preceded it.

Wayne Rooney’s goal against Arsenal as an Everton player in 2002 is a particularly good example, a newspaper-friendly story of a young unknown, crucially an Englishman, daring to have a go and beating David Seaman. The strike saw the goalkeeper react hesitantly in a manner not too dissimilar to the one off Ronaldinho’s boot one afternoon in Shizuoka just months earlier, which some were inclined to add into their match reports. Nick Powell, Manchester United’s £4million signing, had one of these moments, like Rooney, not long ago: perhaps less hyped, yes, but certainly more important.

It was only in May 2012: 15 minutes had passed in the glamorous League Two play-off final against Cheltenham Town, and Powell did this. He had helped Crewe Alexandra to a 2-0 win. By then, we had heard of United’s interest — and although some knew better than to explode into excitement, it was — importantly — a moment, a goal, not isolated into just one level of football. The control, the finish, the impressive use of both feet. Even in not trying to fall into the trap of being mislead by a video clip, especially for a player as inexperienced as Powell, you could at least tell that United had done their research.

But apart from that goal, and what Wikipedia tells us, what else do we really know about Powell? In fact, for a player most likely to start his new career for the reserves, is there really a need for all this? The talk, the profiling, this piece even; indeed, years ago, a signing in the context of a player having only played in the fourth tier, would generate less everything — that we know, for obvious reasons. But nor is this a transfer on the scale of Shinji Kagawa just before it, an established attacking player some argue was most influential in Borussia Dortmund’s 2011/12 title win. Powell, you’d logically think, will not play as many senior games as Kagawa, someone likely to be thrown right in, will this coming season. That we also know.

Still: this is football now and we have to accept it. Accept that there is a lot more forensic interest these days and accept that opinions have to be formed to preserve world order. This was big-ish news; no longer on the scale of something that would be consigned to page 13/14 of Manchester United’s section on Teletext. And maybe rightly so; if he’s so talented as they say, then we carelessly take their word and be optimistic. After all, when we highlight the examples of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (Southampton, League One to Arsenal) and more so Chris Smalling (non-league Maidstone United to Fulham then Manchester United), we can see for ourselves players who have made the transition, settling in at big clubs with the abundant time available at their tender age.

But, anyway, what do we actually know? Well …

Of course, being a full-time follower of a Premier League club invariably means you’ll be dismissed as, they would say, someone quite ignorant to the lower leagues and those people are, well, right. Most of us are part of a miserable, know-nothing bunch. So, Jon Birchall, an unusually non-ignorant man partial to Crewe Alexandra and arranger of words on the internet, was asked to write a paragraph on Powell, giving us an insight into the player he apparently knows all about (with the greatest respect, anything he tells us — whether that he is 6ft tall or takes a keen interest in palmistry — will be considered and then believed all the same). He agreed and, as you can see below, he was able to pen a paragraph or five:

Clenched within the considerable wingspan of David Gill, Nick Powell held a pose of quiet formidability as United announced his signing. Pursed lips, dead eyes and an overwhelming sense of self. He looked ready.

You can tell a lot from such pictures. On the day he joined United, Dimitar Berbatov had one too many buttons undone with his hair greased back, an arm around Sir Alex Ferguson like a mafioso shepherding him to the private area of a Sofia strip club. Chicharito smiled with boundless, childlike enthusiasm. Bebe looked confused.

But Powell held himself in high regard, and so have I and everyone else that follows Crewe since he first started playing regularly for The Alex 18 months ago. The truth is, he really is that good. Coupled with a more pragmatic approach to League Two football, Powell carried a side that could quite easily have become relegation fodder to the playoff final against Cheltenham … and you know what happened there.

As for what happens next is tricky. A character-building loan in the Football League is frankly unnecessary. He’s had his fair share of elbows from fat League Two defenders that simply didn’t know what to do with him. As such, a spell with the Reserves seems like the most obvious option. Powell needs to play with good footballers that are going to challenge him, speed him up and have him pushing for the first team. I genuinely see no reason why it can’t happen within a season or so, and I’d imagine he feels the same way.

After all, for every pair of sensible Denis Irwin jeans, you occasionally need the leather-trousered bravado of a Cristiano Ronaldo. Fran Lebowitz was right; humility is no substitute for a good personality. The youngster will learn the former among more talented players at United but the latter is already there in abundance. Powell knows just how brilliant he is, and soon, so will everyone else.

Jon Birchall is the Deputy Editor of UK


15 responses to “Nick Powell at Manchester United: Expect nothing and everything”

  1. Boje a Femi says :

    Man Utd should sign a more creative player.

  2. BigL says :

    We should go for either Wesley or Lucas Moura; and if you don’t believe this kid is worth 25-30m watch this:

    • A-One says :

      I was impressed by Nick Powell, he can really improve and become world class but we’ll like to have Lucas Moura in our team too. If anyone can contact SAF should please tell him to speed up on Lucas Moura…we Manutd people we deserve that. At least make us happy

  3. Aragorn says :

    Nick Powell is a bit of a pig in a poke, we have no idea how he will play against the top defenders in the Prem and in Europe, he will need a spell on loan at a Premiership club to get up to speed. It’s going to be a long hard road for him, form what people have said the investment seems worth it, but we thought that about Bebe.

  4. Temene says :

    I will like Powell to be on loan next season; that will work like it had for Cleverley.

  5. VICTOR KASURE says :

    I think he is good enough to keep us moving.

  6. luckystriker says :

    Gaffer, I can only do one thing at a time. Should I expect nothing or everything 😉

    • Twenny-Four says :

      Nothing. No, everything. Nothing. Everything. Nothing. Everything.

      Neither. Don’t expect nothing and don’t expect everything. Expect nothing, but also *expect* nothing. That’s it. That way no blame is attributed to this piece when everything about Nick Powell becomes clear.

  7. Prince Umarioson says :

    This guy must be given first team. Looking at his movement he’s a god.

  8. louis says :

    let us all wait and see!

  9. teddy says :

    Man Utd should sign a more creative player like Porto midfielder

  10. A-One says :

    I was impressed by Nick Powell, he can really improve and become world class but well like to have Lucas Moura in our team too. If anyone can contact SAF should please tell him to speed up on Lucas Mourawe Manutd people we deserve that. At least make us happy

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