Nick Powell: 5 Reasons Why Manchester United Star Can Be the Next Paul Scholes
Manchester United saw off Wigan in clinical fashion Saturday in a game that marked the start of two players' careers with Manchester United.
While Alexander Buttner was the star of the show, Nick Powell's debut may be more important.
Mark down this time and date—4.36 p.m. GMT on September 15, 2012. It may the moment a future United great began his career.
Before joining United in a £6 million move, Powell learned his trade in the famed Crewe Alexandra Academy.
There was much speculation when he signed about what his role would be in the side and when he would be introduced.
Despite playing primarily as a striker at Crewe, Sir Alex Ferguson saw the youngster as a midfielder.
Some also thought he would be loaned out for a year, but he put that talk to bed just 10 minutes into his debut.
With a drop of the shoulder and a shimmy of the hips, he had sight of goal and unleashed an unstoppable shot.
It was a finish reminiscent of a young Paul Scholes, showing the calmness and ability Scholes exudes to this day.
At 39 years old, Scholes' days at the club are nearing the end, but could United have found the man to replace him?
Here are five reasons why that might be the case.
He Has the Perfect Mentor
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Being labeled ''the next'' anyone can often be more of a curse than a compliment. It sets the bar so high that it's almost impossible to succeed.
I'm not going to argue that Powell will have anywhere near the impact Scholes did at United, but he could fill his role in midfield for years to come.
While Powell is far from the finished article, he has at least a year to learn his trade by training and playing alongside the man he hopes to emulate one day.
Scholes has already dipped his toes into the world of coaching, and I couldn't think of a better player to learn from.
There is no ego to the man, so he won't have any issue imparting knowledge to his successor. He loves United and thus will do anything he can to help Powell.
And once Scholes retires, you can be sure he will remain at the club and continue to guide the youngster.
Aside from everything he can teach him on the pitch, Powell would be well-served in copying Scholes off the pitch.
Scholes is the antithesis of the modern-day footballer, keeping to himself and ignoring the celebrity culture.
It would be in Powell's best interests to shadow Scholes' life, on and off the pitch.
He's Close to Home
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There are so many pitfalls waiting for a young footballer when they step into the limelight.
From nowhere they become instant celebrities overnight. They have everything a young man could ever dream of—fame, money and girls.
It is easy to let the fast life get the better of you. They often forget that it was hard work and dedication that got them there in the first place.
They are befriended by sycophants who are along for the ride and don't have the player's best interests in mind.
The life of a young player can also be a lonely existence, despite playing in front of thousands of people every week and being adored by millions.
With the game now global, they can find themselves miles from home in a foreign country with no friends or family.
Let's hope Powell will avoid both issues. As a native of Crewe, he now finds himself less than an hour away from home.
That means if he get too big for his boots, his friends and family will be on hand to drag him back down to earth.
It also gives him an easy escape if he needs to get away from the pressure of Old Trafford and clear his head.
He Has a Head for the Big Occasion
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Many a player has come to Old Trafford and succumbed to the pressure of playing for one of the biggest clubs in the world.
It takes a special type of personality to succeed at United and an even more special one to excel.
In his short career, Powell has already shown himself to be a man of huge character who is unfazed by the pressure of a big occasion.
In his first year as a starter, his influence grew as the pressure of qualifying for the playoffs intensified.
Then, to further cement his big-game reputation, he was unfazed by appearing at Wembley in the League 2 Playoff final and scored a wonder goal to put Crewe into the lead.
Upon joining United, he would've been forgiven if he took a few months to settle into life at the club. He was, after all, stepping up three divisions and was just 18 years old.
Instead he took less than 15 minutes to announce himself to the Old Trafford faithful with a beautiful goal to complete a 4-0 rout of Wigan.
No matter what division you are in, the game is the same. It doesn't matter if you're playing in front of 10,000 fans in Alexandra Stadium or 75,000 in Old Trafford.
All that changes is the pressure and the quality of the opposition. On Saturday, Powell showed that he has the talent and the mentality to succeed at this level.
Now he just has to put the work in.
He Is Already a Great Finisher
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Sir Alex Ferguson has long been a believer in the need for the central midfield to score goals to complement the attackers.
First it was Bryan Robson and then Paul Scholes. But since Scholes adopted a deeper role, we have struggled to score.
If we could add a threat from centre midfield, it would make it harder for the opposition to defend, freeing up space for our wingers and strikers.
In his short career, Powell has shown himself to be a finisher of great ability. He can shoot with both feet and is strong in the air.
But that won't be enough to succeed at the highest level. The key to scoring from midfield is timing your runs to arrive at the right moment.
Scholes made a habit of ghosting into the box unnoticed, and Frank Lampard is the unquestioned master of it in recent years.
On Saturday, Powell showed that he could have that timing. He arrived onto the ball at speed and in space, which gave him the time to smash the ball home.
If he can combine timing with his physical attributes, he could regularly hit double figures for years to come.
He Is at the Perfect Breeding Ground
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As a young midfielder, there are few better clubs to go to than Manchester United. A list of young midfielders who have developed at the club in recent years is a who's who of English football.
At the top level, David Beckham, Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes have come through in recent years to have incredible careers. At a lower level, you have players like Nicky Butt and Darren Fletcher who have had solid, if unspectacular careers. There is also a host of players who have graduated to have respectable top-flight careers after leaving the club.
If you go further back, there are midfielders like Bobby Charlton, George Best, Duncan Edwards, Nobby Stiles, David Sadler, Sammy McIlroy and John Giles who are considered greats of the game.
If you add in players like Cristiano Ronaldo, Roy Keane, Nani and others who came to the club at a young age and became stars, you begin to see the trend.
Manchester United have a long history of producing or helping develop top young midfielders.
He also comes to the club as they try to build the next great team. He is surrounded by top young talents in all positions who will form the spine of United for years to come.
In David De Gea, Phil Jones, Chris Smalling, Tom Cleverly and Danny Welbeck, Powell joins a team that has a great foundation.