Warren Joyce on the differences between Ravel Morrison and Paul Pogba since their time at Manchester United

Morrison trained with Wigan this month but has since moved on to QPR

Jesse Lingard (left) was also a part of that successful 2011 youth team
Jesse Lingard (left) was also a part of that successful 2011 youth team

It was a simple, one-word tweet: “January”. Ravel Morrison posted it in November. He was in Rome, contracted to Lazio, but light years from the first team. It was a yearning for the transfer window to open, for a chance to be free.

It is January, although proving far more complicated than Morrison might have imagined. The man whom Rio Ferdinand thought the finest young talent he had seen at Manchester United decided to come full circle, to train with Wigan, under Warren Joyce, who had coached him and Paul Pogba to the 2011 Youth Cup final.

There were some lovely touches but Morrison had last played a game of first-team football in April, given seven minutes of Lazio’s 2-1 defeat by Sampdoria. He was far from match fit. He then made another journey back – to train with Queens Park Rangers, one of the clubs that had attempted and failed to mine the deep seam of ability after Sir Alex Ferguson cut his ties with Morrison.

Of the team that won the 2011 Youth Cup final, Morrison was thought the best prospect. He overshadowed Jesse Lingard and Will Keane. Pogba idolised him. Morrison scored twice in the 6-3 aggregate defeat of Sheffield United. The BBC report describes Pogba merely as “a French import”. When he came to West Ham, Sam Allardyce thought he had been handed “a £50m footballer”.

The only fee paid for Ravel Morrison was West Ham’s £650,000 and that was a waste. It was Pogba who became the most expensive footballer in the world, who by the age of 23 had won the Scudetto four times, the Coppa Italia twice and played in a Champions League and a European Championship final.

“He was just the same as he was,” said Joyce, who met him on his return from Juventus. “Paul always had that goal of being the best player in the world. He said it openly. He always had that inner drive.”

Like Morrison, Pogba left United messily. The story was that Ferguson could not bear Pogba’s agent, Mino Raiola. Joyce said it was more than that but won’t go into details. “You’re better leaving that story dead,” he smiled.

“What I do know is that he played for us in a final on May 17, at the Etihad, four days after Manchester City had won the league. He was still desperate to play for Manchester United in a reserve final and, if he breaks his leg, he isn’t going to Juventus.”

Only occasionally did Ravel Morrison show that inner drive. In October 2013 at White Hart Lane, he scored the goal of a £50m footballer. Taking the ball in his own half, with Jan Vertonghen straining in his wake, he cuts outside Michael Dawson and clips the ball past Hugo Lloris. It brought to mind Ron Atkinson’s description of Laurie Cunningham: “He could run across snow and not leave a footprint.”

When he was eight years old Manchester United’s scout, Phil Brogan, decided to sign him before he had seen him kick a ball. “You could tell he had something just from his demeanour.”

Pogba looked to Morrison as the star of the team

Morrison was playing for Fletcher Moss Rangers, the club that had produced Wes Brown, Danny Welbeck and would later bring on Marcus Rashford. Their academy development director, Dave Horrocks, recalled a boy who lived for football and the possessor of “a smile that could melt a frozen heart and the attention span of a goldfish.”

He was from Wythenshawe, an area of Manchester that attracted the attention of The New York Times, which described it as: “an extreme pocket of social deprivation and alienation”. You could describe Dunston, the part of Gateshead where a young Paul Gascoigne first kicked a football, in similar terms.

When Morrison was loaned out to Birmingham City, their manager, Lee Clark, described him as the finest talent he had laid eyes on since Gascoigne. Morrison replied he had no idea who Paul Gascoigne was.

Joyce left United to manage Wigan last year

Morrison was even less suited to Lazio than Gazza. He made no attempt to learn Italian and, according to Allardyce, so disliked foreign food that he packed tins of baked beans when West Ham went overseas.

Just as Gascoigne never really escaped Dunston so Morrison was never really free of Wythenshawe and its gangs. In the same year he won the FA Youth Cup, Morrison was found guilty of intimidating a witness, the victim of a knife crime.

He was always returning and when he posted a Facebook photo of himself enjoying Christmas dinner while the rest of the West Ham squad was preparing for a Boxing Day fixture with Arsenal, he was finished at Upton Park. The players would not have him back. “Words cannot describe what they thought of him,” said Allardyce.

“I was sad when he left Manchester United,” said Joyce. “There were so many people that cared about him at the club, knew what kind of talent he was and what he needed help with.

Morrison came up against Pogba during an unsuccessful spell at Lazio

“There were times when we took it in turns doing his community service with him. I’ve shovelled horse s*** with him in an afternoon to try to help him through that. The other staff did the same; they found themselves painting sheds. You try to bring up your kids the right way but not everybody has that guidance.

“There are lots of sides to Ravel that people don’t see. How he’s portrayed is probably his fault, he’s on Twitter and the media can perceive what a player’s like. But he could be in the room now and you’d all go: ‘what a nice lad he is’. But on another day you might think different.”

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