By Greg Stobart | Northern Correspondent
Sir Alex Ferguson will reflect on Ravel Morrison’s transfer to West Ham with a twinge of sadness about what might have been.
When everyone else at Manchester United, including the coaching staff and the senior players, had given up on the controversial 18-year-old, the manager persevered.
Ferguson recognised the natural talent in Morrison’s boots and stuck with the attacking midfielder when most other players would have been shown the door a long time ago.
But even the United boss had to eventually concede defeat in his attempts to nurture a talent widely described as the best to emerge from the club’s Academy since Paul Scholes.
"The case with Ravel is well documented,” Ferguson said on Tuesday night. “I think he’s better out of Manchester to be honest with you. He’s got a great talent, but having to deal with that is very important."
That, in a nutshell, is why Morrison is now a West Ham player, having signed in a deal worth up to £1 million after United told him to find a new club with six months remaining on his existing contract at Old Trafford.
Few people at United have a good word to say about Morrison, who had a string of disciplinary issues within the club, not to mention the far more serious problems, including a 12-month referral order after pleading guilty to witness intimidation early last year.
|"He simply couldn’t be tamed, despite all the chances he was given. Whether it’s absenteeism, intimidating victims of street robberies or throwing his girlfriend’s phone out of a window; Morrison has showed no signs that he has learned"|
Instead, he made just three appearances - all in the League Cup - before leaving United, with the club not even including a buy-back clause in the deal.
Every day in training he was in contact with players who had reaped the reward for their hard work and sacrifices. But Morrison disregarded the prospect of medals, status and fame; instead getting dragged into a murky group of hangers-on in his hometown of Denton.
While many modern Premier League players may present a ‘gangster’ image, few allow themselves to get caught up in the trouble that has followed - and you fear will continue to follow - Morrison everywhere he goes.
And that’s why Ferguson accepts Morrison needs to get out of Manchester, to remove the leeches who latched onto his status and wealth as a footballer at the most successful club in the country.
The East End of London may not be the most natural fit for a young man who needs a fresh start, but he is likely to be housed in leafy Essex and under Sam Allardyce - a good friend of Ferguson’s - there is a chance he could fulfill is potential and eventually be worth more than £30m.
The suggestion is that his entourage will not follow him down south. That’s a start, but nobody who has worked with Morrison would bet on Morrison staying out of trouble. He appears destined to become a wasted talent. The legitimate question is being asked: if Fergie can’t sort him out, who possibly could?
One thing is for sure, Morrison is not leaving United because he doesn’t have the ability on the pitch. He has all the ingredients to make a top Premier League player: physically powerful, elegant and skillful on the ball with superb vision.
Since the age of 14, Morrison has been billed as the next big thing to come out of United and he appealed to a wider audience with a series of excellent displays in the side that won the FA Youth Cup.
But he simply couldn’t be tamed, despite all the chances he was given. Whether it’s absenteeism, intimidating victims of street robberies or throwing his girlfriend’s phone out of a window; Morrison has showed no signs that he has learned.
His age, his circumstances, his difficult upbringing, were taken into account by the people at United - but their patience could only extend so far.
Morrison will earn around £20,000-a-week at West Ham after signing a three-and-a-half year deal. It could eventually be considered the most inspired transfer of this window - or it could represent the end of a career most who have worked with him consider to be doomed.
It got to the stage where it was never going to work out in the red of Manchester United. Even Ferguson will hope that the change of environment will do Morrison some good.