Monday 26 February 2018

Morrison not gifted enough for United to compromise

Richard Sadlier

Richard Sadlier

In the week he lifted the 2011 FA Youth Cup with Manchester United, Ravel Morrison was fined £600 by a court for throwing his girlfriend's mobile phone out of a window during an argument. He pleaded guilty on two counts of witness intimidation last year and has a police caution for assaulting his mother.

United stood by him through all of his troubles, something clubs do with gifted players all the time. Their patience ran out last week.

Talent alone is not enough. It's a phrase every aspiring footballer hears hundreds of times, and Morrison's story is the latest example. Despite his ability he was told he had no future at the club. Three first-team appearances in the Carling Cup are all he achieved at Old Trafford.

Alex Ferguson once described him as one of the best youngsters he had ever seen, but last week said he is better off out of Manchester. The East End of London is not the place for any troubled teenager looking to avoid temptation and settle down, but maybe I'm wrong to assume that's what he plans to do. Perhaps Ferguson meant he's better off out of United.

He was regularly fined for arriving late to training, or for not showing up at all. The opportunity for progress was there but the self-discipline needed to bring it about was not. Academy staff are said to have lost patience with him long ago and the senior players had reportedly done likewise. Ferguson was still willing to extend his deal beyond this season, but "unrealistic" wage demands ended that. Unwilling to allow his value to be decided by a tribunal in the summer, United decided to cut their losses.

The story has been presented in some quarters as a failure by the staff at United to manage a wayward genius, but Ferguson does not allow players of that description to leave.

A fortnight ago, when clubs were becoming interested in Morrison and his discussions with United weren't going well, Gary Neville was asked for his views on the issue on Twitter. He said the matter would be resolved in whatever way Alex Ferguson wants it to be resolved. In any number of areas, Morrison was just not good enough to persevere with.

He is too young to be labelled a wasted talent, but without a complete change in his approach it is only matter of time. The game is littered with stories of gifted teenagers who amounted to nothing, and he has all the attributes to become one of those.

His chances of first-team football are far greater with West Ham, certainly while they remain in the Championship, but he'll face certain new challenges there too. He is arriving as a full professional on a reasonable wage. His peers are now those in the first-team squad and he won't be looked upon as a talented kid who has come up through the ranks any longer. He may not be afforded much tolerance or forgiveness from them as there are certain standards expected of everyone at that level. Showing up for training is just one of them.

West Ham have no plans to arrange accommodation for him so he currently stays in a hotel on his own. To have that arrangement with one so young seems unwise. Given his past and his attitude, it

seems almost negligent. But he's a professional now and there's only so much the club can do. He needs more than a change in location, but the desire to bring it about must be his own.

A three-and-a-half year contract is an excellent deal for an 18-year-old known more for his flaws than his talents. Any move from United to West Ham could be justified in terms of first-team opportunities, but he left Old Trafford because his valuation of himself differed greatly with the club's. It had nothing to do with football. His earnings may have increased, but the likelihood of him achieving his potential has not. He now works with Sam Allardyce instead of Alex Ferguson.

It's difficult to gauge how any teenager's career will develop, but the signs are ominous for Morrison. Particularly because he has the full backing of Phil Brown. "Ravel will be fine at West Ham because he's going to a winning environment surrounded by talented players."

A refreshing break from what he's had to deal with so far then. What could possibly go wrong?

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