The promise and potential of young Nick Powell has been evident since the day he made the move from lower league side Crewe Alexandra to Manchester United in the summer.
The 18-year-old struck a stunner in his first-team debut at Old Trafford—a rasping drive that instantly reminded one of Paul Scholes in his heyday.
Since then though, Powell has only made sporadic appearances for the Red Devils and usually in the less important fixtures.
Which begs the question, should he be sent out on loan in search of more football, or remain at the club in a bid to further his footballing education?
Though there has been little in the way of reports linking Nick Powell with a loan spell in the Championship, anything is possible where Sir Alex Ferguson's transfer wheelings and dealings are concerned.
One transfer rumour currently doing the rounds comes courtesy of TalkSport, who this week claimed that the Scotsman was open to sending him to son Darren Ferguson's Peterborough United (h/t SportsMole).
Although there are certainly advantages to sending a player out on loan, there are also few guarantees regarding whether or not a temporary move would be best for each individual player's development.
Federico Macheda's disastrous time at Sampdoria and Queens Park Rangers may have irreversibly damaged his career in the long term, while others have struggled to adapt to their new surroundings in the past.
Even with the promise of regular first-team football, the facilities and coaching at lower league clubs are markedly less comprehensive than those at Carrington, where burgeoning young footballers can expect the best training and development.
In Powell's case, time has already been spent playing regularly at another club—even if it was in League Two for Crewe.
The Railwaymen were then a promotion-chasing team, while Peterborough are currently embroiled in a fierce relegation battle at the foot of the Championship—hardly an environment conducive to a young player's progression.
Besides, based on his initial performances for United, he is surely very close to being first-team ready right now.
In each of his six appearances this season, he has shown remarkable poise for one so young, and by no means did he seem overwhelmed by the huge step-up in the level of opponents.
The Guardian writer, Barney Ronay, wrote in November that Powell combines "an ability to shoot and finish, a nice way with a pass, and a very obvious sense of composure."
After his terrific, goal-scoring debut against Wigan, the midfielder drew similar praise from Sir Alex, who noted, "he has a great temperament, is two-footed and quick. He is a good physical specimen and has terrific vision. We hope he fills Paul Scholes' boots" (via Daily Mail).
Unafraid of the comparisons with the ginger wizard, Powell added, "It is unbelievable. He has so much experience. He came off when I came on but it was great to be on the pitch with the lot of them, especially Scholes."
But though Sir Alex is undoubtedly keen on blooding the youngster and giving him a taste of regular first-team football, the question of who should make way in the first XI is a tricky one.
Wayne Rooney and Shinji Kagawa already have the trequartista/playmaker role monopolised, while Powell would not be suited to a more withdrawn central midfield role alongside Michael Carrick.
If Fergie were to persist with the diamond formation, Powell might stand a chance of making it into the team, but with the 4-2-3-1 looking like both the immediate and distant future, his chances appear slim.
But is he too talented to be plying his trade in front of crowds that number in the hundreds rather than capacity stadiums in the Premier League?
There is still plenty of time ahead of him. Paul Scholes was almost 20 when he made his debut for the Red Devils.
This is not 1995 though—Sir Alex has since grown far more cautious in his promotion of young talent through the Old Trafford ranks.
Whether or not he feels Powell needs to be playing regularly elsewhere or remain at Carrington, the fact that Manchester United have a prospect on their books to match most around Europe is certainly reason for fans to be optimistic.
What do you believe the immediate future holds for Nick Powell? Would a loan move be a good thing?
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