Divergent careers of the two possible heirs to Paul Scholes - Nick Powell and Paul Pogba
On 12th June 2012 Manchester United snapped up talented 18 year old midfielder Nick Powell from Crewe in a deal is believed to be in the region of £4 million with £2.75 million being paid up front to the newly-promoted League One side.
Powell scored on his Manchester United debut against Wigan with drive into the bottom corner from 20 yards.
Sir Alex Ferguson on Nick Powell: “He is going to be a really good player. He has a great temperament, is two-footed and quick. He is a good physical specimen and has terrific vision. We hope Powell fills Paul Scholes’ boots.”
Powell a replacement for Pogba
This signing was made following the exit of talented French midfielder Paul Pogba to Juventus on a free transfer. United and Pogba had different interests and contract talks stalled which resulted in the situation turning sour and Juventus snapping up the youngster who was out of contract.
Pogba had made 7 first team appearances for Manchester United and was yet to score a goal.
Ferguson told MUFC that he was “quite happy” to see Pogba leave the club, and added: “I don’t think he showed us any respect at all.”
Paul Pogba told The Times: “I didn’t want to sign a contract as Ferguson didn’t play me, even though there were no midfielders there.He obviously thought I didn’t deserve the contract I asked for, and didn’t put me in the team even though he had no midfield players. It was his choice.”
Fans had mixed views on the situation as Paul Pogba although talented, had slacked off in the reserves after showing initial promise. Pogba hadn’t lit up the stadium when given a few minutes in the first team and hence the United camp didn’t think he deserved the contract he demanded.
With both Ferguson and Pogba being stubborn on the situation there was bound to be only one winner. Off went Pogba and in came Nick Powell as a potential replacement for the aging Paul Scholes.
Powell was enjoying his second season at Crewe and had scored 16 goals in 45 appearances. In his last game at Crewe Powell scored the most important goal of his career so far, a volley from outside the box into the top corner in the 2–0 victory over Cheltenham Town in the 2012 League Two play-off Final at Wembley Stadium, to win promotion to League One.
Pogba’s rise to stardom with Juventus
Since 2012 the two players have enjoyed contrasting fortunes. Paul Pogba has turned into one of the best young players in Europe and won the Golden Boy award for 2013, given to the best under-21 player in Europe.
The 21 year old midfielder made 103 appearances for Juventus and has a respectable ration of a goal every 5 games (21 goals). Pogba also represented France in the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil.
Buffon told TV show Tiki Taka: “Pogba is one of those players who leaves you speechless. When he came we didn’t know him but after only three or four training sessions we were impressed by his enormous qualities. My team-mates and me looked at each other as to say ‘Are they blind in Manchester?’ (to let him go away).”
Powell fading away from glory
Powell on the other hand failed to nail a first team spot at United. He made 6 appearances in his debut season before being sent out on loan at Wigan where he finished the season as their top scorer with 12 goals in 42 appearances.
Having failed to impress new United manager Louis Van Gaal, he was sent out on loan to Premier League strugglers Leicester City where poor attitude in training resulted in him being sent back to Old Trafford having just made 3 substitute appearances.
John Percy of The Telegraph detailed how Powell created a less-than-favourable impression during his time with the Foxes:
“Telegraph Sport understands Powell has infuriated Pearson and his backroom team with his attitude in training and general timekeeping since joining on loan in September.”
Both players were at one point thought as the heir to Paul Scholes and while the search to fill Scholes’ boots still continues Powell and Pogba have seen their careers head in opposite directions.
While Manchester United fear Powell’s career could unravel in a manner similar to Ravel Morrison, Paul Pogba attracts interest from Europe’s top clubs and even United are rumoured to have considered tabling a £77 million offer for the midfielder whom they let go for free.
(Nick Powell vs Paul Pogba Season wise Goals Distribution)
As we enter 2015 Powell might have 6 months to save his Manchester United career either by impressing Van Gaal at Old Trafford or by getting his head down and performing well while on loan. Else the Old Trafford hierarchy might well have to put their hands in their pockets and pay the price for one of Fergie’s biggest mistakes, as a they try to price Pogba away from the Old Lady.