Manchester United’s new signing Nick Powell is something of an unknown commodity.
The highly-rated 18-year-old striker was signed from Crewe Alexandra for an undisclosed fee on Tuesday, June 11.
Sir Alex Ferguson and Mike Phelan had kept tabs on the England under-18 starlet for much of the season and were in the stands for his impressive performance against Aldershot Town, according to Manchester United’s official website.
The Mirror was the first paper to report Sir Alex Ferguson’s interest, speculating that the Red Devils were on the brink of making a £5 million offer at the end of May.
BBC Sport reports that the transfer could cost United as much as £6 million in total, depending on additional clauses, but the initial fee is thought to be closer to £3 million.
So who is Nick Powell?
The 18-year-old is a product of Crewe Alexandra’s youth academy and was with the club since the age of five. Although their youth academy may not be as revered as the ones at Barcelona, Ajax or Arsenal, former manager Dario Gradi kept the club afloat by developing their own players and selling them on.
The Railwaymen’s academy has produced the likes of Danny Murphy, Seth Johnson, Dean Ashton (who Crewe sold to Norwich for a record fee of £3 million), Nicky Maynard and Wales international David Vaughan.
The club also boast an impressive history of bringing in young players from other places and developing them, most notably Rob Jones, Neil Lennon, as well as David Platt and Robbie Savage, both signed from Old Trafford.
Indeed, it is not likely that the club will invest the transfer money in new players, instead manager Steve Davis told BBC Sport: “We want to bring in a replacement of our own and give our own players, such as [fellow England Under-18 forward] Max Clayton, a chance."
Powell made his debut for the Railwaymen against Cheltenham Town in August 2010. He came on as a second-half substitute for Clayton Donaldson at the age of 16, and became the youngest player to ever represent the club.
The game at Whaddon Road ended in a 3-2 defeat for Alexandra, but Powell has subsequently built a reputation as one of the most promising prospects in the football league.
The England Under-18 striker failed to score a goal in his debut season for the club, despite making a combined total of 19 appearances.
His second season at the club has been much more prolific.
In 38 league appearances, he scored 14 goals for club, although his season did not get off to the best of starts. Aged 17 at the time, Powell was sent off in a 2-0 defeat against Shrewsbury. He had only been on the pitch for 8 minutes after coming on as a substitute for the injured Bryon Moore in the 60th minute.
Five minutes after coming onto the pitch, Powell was fouled by Shrewsbury’s Terry Gornell. Three minutes later, Powell returned the favour by lunging in hard on his rival and was shown a straight red card.
It was not until October 15th that Powell scored his maiden goal in a 3-1 win over AFC Wimbledon. From that point forward he blossomed into one of the football league’s hot prospects.
Powell was awarded the December young player of the month award and continued with his run of form.
On March 10th, he scored his first brace against Gillingham to help his team beat the Gills 4-3 in a stunning game. A stunning 30-yard strike was later voted as the club’s goal of the season.
In April, Powell collected all five awards from Crewe Alexandra; Player of the season, young player of the season, goal of the season, away player of the season. He also won the League 1 Apprentice of the year award in March.
Following the awards ceremony Steve Davis sang the young striker’s praises. "He may be better than any of them [the club’s academy graduates], and we've had some special players over the years," he told BBC Radio Stoke.
The youngster’s greatest moment, however, came in the League 1 play-off final against Cheltenham Town. Powell scored the opening goal in a 2-1 win for Alexandra and subsequently finished the season as their top scorer.
What role will Powell play?
Aside from his club career, Powell has represented England on 25 occasions, scoring six goals in three different age groups.
He measures in at 6' tall and has already proven he has a fantastic footballing brain. His vision and composure has been exemplary throughout the season, as has his passing under pressure.
His movement is also impressive for a player of his age. He likes to play between the opposition’s midfield and defensive line, which makes it difficult for a midfielder to decide whether he should drop back or if the defender should come forward.
Manchester United fans can expect to see a hard-working young professional capable of scoring fantastic goals, such as his effort against Gillingham.
The Telegraph reports Sir Alex Ferguson saying: “We have scouted Nick for months now. He is an exceptional talent and has been schooled well at Crewe.
"I’m delighted he has chosen to come to United. He has a lot to offer and we are all looking forward to working with him."
Powell told BBC Sport "It really is a dream come true to be signing for Manchester United," he said.
"I have had a great time at Crewe and I would like to thank them for helping me to develop as a player over the past 13 years.
"I'm excited about continuing my development with Sir Alex and the world class players in the squad.”