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Ravel: Unravelled

Manchester United’s ‘next big thing’ may believe his own hype but many others are starting to doubt it after more cracks began to show both on and off the field for the young star.

After his standout performances in last season’s Youth Cup many believed this would be the season the Manchester-born winger would break into the first team at Old Trafford. However, as is often the case with supremely talented young footballers things aren’t that simple. With the world at his feet Morrison’s career could still go one of two ways.

Hailing from Denton, Greater Manchester and a lifelong United fan, Ravel Ryan Morrison initially signed as a first-year scholar in July 2009. Making an immediate impact at schoolboy level and scoring in United’s Youth Cup defeat to Chelsea in 2008/09, while only 15. A pacy attacking midfielder, capable of playing out wide or in the middle. Superb balance, vision, strength and tenacity allowed Morrison to stand out from the current crop of youngsters vying to make it big at Old Trafford.

A year after his antics against Chelsea, Morrison signed his first professional contract with The Red Devils, by this time he was already a regular in the Reserves and many were clamouring for Sir Alex Ferguson to give him a chance in the first team. Arguably the most gifted footballer to come through the ranks since Paul Scholes, Morrison was undoubtedly going to be the next of Fergie’s Fledglings to set the footballing world alight.

While on the field everything looked rosy, off the field things were far from perfect. Wythenshawe was where Morrison honed his footballing abilities but it was also the place that shaped him as a person. An estate in South Manchester renowned for guns and gangs, Morrison spent most his free time on the streets causing trouble, something that didn’t go unnoticed by his club, or the police.

At 15 Morrison was cautioned by police for an assault on his own mother. Two days after signing professional terms at Old Trafford he was arrested for intimidating a witness.

It’s a story that is all too familiar where young footballers are concerned, former England and United captain Rio Ferdinand knows all too well the issue at hand. Growing up in Peckham Ferdinand has admitted he can relate to the story of Ravel Morrison and even reportedly offered to take the youngster into his home.

Things on the pitch were still going well despite this and in October 2010 Ferguson handed Morrison the number 49 shirt and a senior debut against Wolves in the Carling Cup. The same season he was named Man of the Match as United won the Youth Cup for the 10th time. Morrison scored two and won a penalty as United beat Sheffield United 6-3 on aggregate.

Still there were doubts, was his refusal to comply with authority going to affect him on the pitch? His coaches at England obviously thought so and were reportedly about to give up on the player before something, probably his outstanding talent, made them change their mind. Ferguson though appears to have been less stringent. That kind of leniency isn’t unheard of at Old Trafford, exceptions have been known to be given to especially gifted players, notably messrs Eric Cantona and George Best.

The bad boy wasn’t done yet and in May of this year Morrison escaped a prison sentence that would surely have meant an end to his Manchester United career. Let off the hook as his girlfriend refused to press assault charges, a fine for criminal damage was all that was added to his record.

Again though, he was given an other chance, just five months later he pulled on the number 49 shirt once again, replacing Mame Biram Diouf against Aldershot in the Carling Cup. Looking assured on the ball, dangerous when in the final third and energetic throughout, Morrison showed that despite his problems he is still improving.

After his fleeting taste of the big time he was returned to Warren Joyce’s reserves, something which doesn’t appear to sit right with the laborious teenager. Morrison took to Twitter last week to air his grievances at being left on the bench against Everton, tweeting, “—- take” and “I can not waite til the end of the season” after the game had ended. Thankfully this time his anger was channeled peacefully and not violently, still that didn’t stop him receiving a warning from one time boy-wonder, Wayne Rooney. Morrison quickly backtracked but his sentiments were clear.

The choice is his. He can repay the faith shown in him by the club, his team mates, the fans, even his own family. Or he can continue down his path to destruction and become another one of football’s tragedies. Either way, the Ravel Morrison story doesn’t end here.

Watch Ravel score as Manchester United Reserves beat Bolton Wanderers Reserves 1-0 a few weeks ago. It was a dire contest but it was suddenly brightened up and won by Ravel with the final kick off the game.

Follow me on Twitter to read more of my ramblings on/at Ravel Morrison and other football related rubbish. @MFJOEL

Joel D