Nick Powell can replace Paul Scholes at Manchester United, says Sir Alex Ferguson

 

Sir Alex Ferguson is tipping Nick Powell to eventually replace Paul Scholes at Manchester United.

Powell is presently 699 United appearances and 154 goals behind Scholes following his scoring debut in a 4-0 win over Wigan yesterday.

Yet in pure age terms, he is actually in front of the legendary midfielder.

Scholes was approaching his 20th birthday when he made his first-team debut for the Red Devils.

It was an eye-catching start all right, netting twice in a League Cup tie at Port Vale to launch one of the most illustrious careers English football has ever known.

Powell was not even born at the time. But already the teenager shares a couple of traits with his new team-mate.

His superb goal means the 18-year-old's debut will be remembered. And, just like Scholes, he is not comfortable talking to the media.

Not that Ferguson is fussed about that.

"Nick Powell is going to be a really good player," he said.

"He has a great temperament, is two-footed and quick.

"He is a good physical specimen and has terrific vision.

"We hope Powell fills Paul Scholes' boots. For an 18-year-old boy it has been a terrific day."

Although he accepted an invitation to speak to Manchester United's own TV channel after the game, not even MUTV could put Powell at ease as the former Crewe man tiptoed into the limelight.

"When I first came out onto the pitch, the crowd scared me a little bit," he said.

"I am only used to 5,000 people every now and then.

"It is a great feeling but I will keep myself on the ground."

Powell did admit he is learning a great deal from training alongside Scholes.

"It is unbelievable. He has so much experience," he said.

"He came off when I came on but it was great to be on the pitch with the lot of them, especially Scholes making his 700th appearance for United."

Scholes prodded United in front at the start of the second half, with Javier Hernandez and another debutant Alexander Buttner also on target before Powell struck.

Latics boss Roberto Martinez reacted angrily after the match, claiming - perhaps with some justification - that Danny Welbeck had dived to win United an early penalty and should later have been sent off for a rash tackle on Franco di Santo.

That pales into insignificance, though, against the serious potential for trouble at Anfield next Sunday when United become the first visitors to Liverpool since this week's damning judgement on Hillsborough.

The deaths of 96 supporters at the FA Cup semi-final in 1989 has been used as a baiting tool by United fans, who had been taunted for years about the Munich tragedy, in which eight of their own players were amongst the 21 who lost their lives.

Previously, Ferguson has written to supporters urging them to moderate their behaviour and spoke at length about the common threads that unite England's two most successful clubs on Friday.

However, although it was sung only once, a clearly inflammatory song was aired by a section of the Stretford End yesterday, prompting an immediate reaction from both club and fans' groups.

A United spokesperson said the club "deplore" such songs.

In a statement, United said: "The manager has made the club's position very clear on this matter.

"It is now up to the fans to respect that."

The fear is that in a powder keg atmosphere, made worse by last season's racism row involving Patrice Evra and Luis Suarez, will not take much to spill over into something particularly distasteful.

It has led to the Manchester United Supporters Trust to take the unusual step of appealing for calm.

"Following this week's developments and release of revelatory information on the Hillsborough tragedy, MUST wishes to make it absolutely clear that just as we condemn chants mocking the Munich air disaster we also condemn any chants relating to Hillsborough or indeed any other human tragedy," said chief executive Duncan Drasdo.

"We did hear the usual anti-Liverpool chants at the match today but we're pleased to say there was nothing that was specifically referencing Hillsborough.

"Any attempt to suggest otherwise is irresponsible given the forthcoming fixture between the clubs and furthermore risks needlessly upsetting the bereaved families further at a time when they are understandably trying to find closure.

"We enjoy a fierce rivalry but these issues transcend that rivalry.

"We agree 100% with the statement made by Sir Alex Ferguson - this is the time for supporters of these two great clubs to represent their clubs with the integrity and honour that our glorious history demands."

PA

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