It was confirmed this week that Manchester United have won the race to sign 18-year-old Nick Powell from Crewe Alexandra. United reportedly fought off competition from a host of Premier League sides including Liverpool, Everton, Chelsea and even late interest from Manchester City. The fee is undisclosed but it is rumoured that the Red Devils have paid £3 million upfront, which could rise to £6 million depending on success and appearances.
Powell is the latest in a long line of exciting young talent that has come through the Crewe academy. He is following in the footsteps of players such as Danny Murphy, Dean Ashton, Neil Lennon and David Platt. The new United star joined Crewe at just five-years-old and made his debut just under two years ago for the side’s first team at the age of 16.
It is this season though that Powell has really come to national attention. He has scored 14 goals in 38 league games and he recently made his debut for England’s under-18 side. Powell has been an integral part of a Crewe side that have played confident and exciting attacking football to seal promotion to League One. Powell’s fantastic season was finished with a spectacular goal in the League Two play-off final at Wembley against Cheltenham.
At the end of this season Powell became the first Crewe player to win every trophy at Crewe’s end of season award ceremony. The attacking midfielder has already made a mark on the international stage too. He has represented England at under-16, 17 and 18 level and was part of the Three Lions under-17’s side that reached their European Championship semi-final in 2011.
What will happen to Powell now though? It is almost certain that he is unlikely to make the step up from League Two to the Premier League straight away. A loan deal to a side in League One or the Championship would seem the most sensible option to continue his development. Crewe manager Steve Davis has already said though that it is not part of the deal for Powell to return on a season-long loan.
Sir Alex Ferguson may well see Powell as good enough to be part of the squad though, much like Arsene Wenger has gradually introduced Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. It is hard though to see Powell displacing Tom Cleverly or Shinji Kagawa as an attacking midfielder or Wayne Rooney and Danny Welbeck up front. If Powell does stay at United this season he may well find himself limited to occasional appearances on the bench in Premier League games with a starting role in the cup competitions his most likely hope of first-team football.
Sir Alex Ferguson personally went to watch Powell play for Crewe on a few occasions and there is no doubting Powell has all the attributes to make it at the top level. At six-feet tall he is good in the air, strong, has a good turn of pace and has an eye for a spectacular goal as seen on a few occasions this season. It may be a while before we see Powell regularly in a Manchester United shirt but he couldn’t wish for a better manager to guide him on his way.
By Chris Newman