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“Rubbish getting thrown out” – Manchester United’s once ‘wonderkid’ reaction to being released



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Credit: IMAGO / Sportimage

Nick Powell was labelled as a ‘wonderkid’ fresh after signing for Manchester United in 2012, however, it didn’t all work out as expected for the English midfielder.

His last game for Crewe Alexander, before his £6 million move to Old Trafford, came in the League Two play-off final against Cheltenham at Wembley, where the then-18-year-old scored an outstanding goal.

Receiving the ball on the edge of the box with his back to goal, his first touch opened the space and the second was to strike the ball on the half volley on his left foot. After the ball flew into the top corner, many United fans would go onto look at the goal after his signing was announced.

Over 10 years on now and Powell’s footballing career is one that doesn’t match the ability he had as a teenager. His career at The Theatre of Dreams was short lived and after three loan spells, his contract would be terminated in the summer of 2016.

It was, however, a dream start for Powell at the club. He scored a stunning goal against Wigan Athletic on his debut and many believed that he was destined for great things. Now, he laughs at the idea of once being a Manchester United ‘wonderkid’.

“I believed I was the best 17 or 18-year-old in the country,” he told The Athletic in a detailed interview. “But seeing what other people have done in their career, against what I have done, I find it laughable that the ‘wonderkid’ thing has stuck. The tag of wonderkid feels so pointless now.”

The midfielder, who currently plays for League Two club Stockport County, explained how his perfectionism about how to play the game is one of the factors in his failure at Old Trafford.

“I remember Rio Ferdinand saying to me, ‘Don’t be happy getting here, be happy staying here.’ It didn’t hit me until I left what he meant by that,” he added.

“My biggest issue was I was such a perfectionist for football — how I saw it and how I played it. If something prohibited me from playing the game the way I wanted, whether it be injuries or not being picked, it would annoy me to the point that I’d get angry with football.

“People see that as ‘he doesn’t like football’ or ‘he doesn’t care.’ It’s more the opposite. It’s me being angry and upset that I can’t do what I want to do.

“Even playing for United’s under-21s aggravated me because it felt like a step back from being in a League Two first team. That was my hardest time at United. I wanted to play football and I didn’t feel under-21s football was football. I couldn’t get my round around it.”

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Powell would only play nine first-team games for United during his time at the club. He played 10 more for the youth side before the termination of his contract.

The player, who is studying for the relevant exams to qualify for a financial planning company to help footballers look after their money, is not aggrieved with the way he was let go at just 22 years of age.

“I got injured and they gave me the choice of staying at Hull (on loan) to do my rehab or going back to United. There was nothing to go back for. So I decided to stay at Hull and see my time out.

“My agent said, ‘It’s fine, you’re under the Bosman age (to leave on a free transfer), so they will probably give you another year and you’re guaranteed the same wage.’ Then, a couple of weeks later, I got a letter through the post saying I was being released.

“Because I was so low down the pecking order, it really was like rubbish getting thrown out,” he said. “It’s not nice, but that’s football.”