Nick Powell Can Follow David Beckham's Path to the Top at Manchester United

Rob Dawson@@RobDawsonMENManchester United CorrespondentNovember 7, 2013

WIGAN, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 06:  Nick Powell of Wigan Athletic in action during the Sky Bet Championship match between Wigan Athletic and Blackburn Rovers at DW Stadium on October 6, 2013 in Wigan, England.  (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Developing young footballers is a delicate process.

They're individuals, and what works for one might not work for the next. It's especially true of loan moves.

It's beneficial for some youngsters to go out on their own and experience life at another club or another level of the pyramid. But there's a lot that can go wrong.

Fabio was sent on loan to QPR last season on the understanding he would get regular games in the Premier League. But within months there was a change of manager and the Brazilian found himself in and out of a team battling against relegation. Now he's sweating over his future at United with his contract due to expire next summer.

But for some players, a loan move can be the making of them. David Beckham was farmed out to Preston North End in 1995 while other members of the Class of '92—Nicky Butt, Paul Scholes, Gary and Phil Neville—remained at The Cliff.

Beckham moved to get experience in the Football League and returned ready to challenge for a place in the first-team. Sir Alex Ferguson and youth team coach Eric Harrison initially had to convince Beckham it was a way of accelerating his progress rather than the beginning of the end of his United career.

Beckham, though, did his part. He was given the option of only joining in selected training sessions at Preston but he chose to train there every day in an effort to integrate himself into the side. And after a month at Deepdal, he was ready to make his Premier League debut later that season.

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Just like Beckham, Nick Powell is taking his chance to impress the United manager with his performances away from Old Trafford.

Unlike Fabio, Powell's had a little bit of luck, too. He's playing at a good level in the Championship with Wigan and he's found a manager who trusts him in Owen Coyle. Experience in the Europa League is an added bonus.

In the first 12 games of his season-long loan spell, he's scored five goals, including three in Europe. He's had the chance to play as a central midfielder—the position Ferguson's identified for him when he arrived from Crewe in 2011—as a No. 10 and a centre-forward.

Powell will turn 20 during his time at the DW Stadium. All being well, he'll return to United a man both on and off the pitch.

Like Beckham, the long-term plan for Powell is for him to forge a career at Old Trafford.

After all, there are two types of loan spell: one for the good of the player and one for the good of the club. Bebe, for example, shouldn't expect a call from David Moyes anytime soon. Powell, on the other hand, will be the subject of weekly updates.

It's unlikely that Powell will return to Old Trafford next summer ready to challenge for a regular place in the team. Tom Cleverley, five years his senior, was loaned out to Leicester, Watford and Wigan before he was brought into United's first-team squad.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 03:  Andros Townsend of Tottenham Hotspur during the Barclays Premier League match between Everton and Tottenham Hotspur at Goodison Park on November 3, 2013 in Liverpool, England.  (Photo by Tony Marshall/Getty Images)
Tony Marshall/Getty Images

Cleverley benefited from a season in the Premier League with Wigan after playing the majority of his first-team football in the Championship. Moyes will be tempted to do the same with Powell next season.

Andros Townsend, who was sent out on loan by Tottenham nine times before he broke into their first-team and earned a place in the England squad, is proof that the lower leagues still have a part to play in the development of top-level players.

Powell has taken his first steps on the same path. United and Moyes can only hope it leads to the same place.