James Shield's Sheffield United Column: Risk, Ravel Morrison and potentially huge rewards

Of course it's a gamble. The same can be said of every single transfer. Even those involving some of the greatest ever names to grace a football pitch.

By James Shield
Thursday, 18 July, 2019, 18:25
The Star's Sheffield United writer James Shield

Injury, illness and personal issues are just some of the factors which, when the arise out of the blue, can have a debilitating effect on a player's form going forward. Sometimes, because they're human, they simply just get the hump.

Who, for example, could have predicted Andriy Shevchenko would struggle quite so badly at Chelsea? Or, a season after lavishing over £20m on Denilson, Real Betis, who faced Sheffield United in a friendly last week, would find themselves in the second tier of Spain's domestic competition.

So although signing Ravel Morrison is a risk, it is one worth taking as Chris Wilder prepares his team for the Premier League. Indeed, the odds of the midfielder proving a success in South Yorkshire are probably pretty short. Providing he remains focused, disciplined and healthy.

There has never been any doubt about Morrison's talent. Sir Alex Ferguson, who watched him progress through Manchester United's youth system, reportedly believed he was its most gifted ever graduate during his tenure at the club. Paddy Crerand, another Old Trafford legend, described Morrison as the "best youngster" he had seen "since George Best."

The trouble was, he shared one of the Northern Irishman's less desirable traits too. Namely an ability to court controversy off the pitch as even a cursory glance at his Wikipedia page will confirm. After being granted his debut by Ferguson while still a teenager, things quickly went south. "He needs to get away from Manchester...start a new life," said the Scot after reluctantly sanctioning his departure.

By all accounts Morrison, who arrived at Bramall Lane earlier this month via West Ham, Lazio and Ostersund, was a model professional throughout his trial in South Yorkshire. One hopes, after failing to so far fulfil his potential, he has rediscovered a sense of purpose. Because at his age - 26 - and given his ability, we really should not be talking about 'potential' any more.

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Morrison, given his technique and creativity, should love playing for United given their attacking principles. And that could be the key. Wilder's system is complex. Just as nuanced as tactics in Serie A. But lessons are delivered in simple fashion with players encouraged to work with the ball at their feet rather than spend hours in a classroom.

Chris Wilder welcomes Ravel Morrison to Bramall Lane: Simon Bellis/Sportimage

After leaving Sweden earlier this summer, the attractions of United from Morrison's perspective are obvious. Top-flight football, a return to England and of course their strategy are among the things they can offer him.

On the club's part, handing Morrison an initial year long contract also makes sense. After all, in normal circumstances, someone of his ability would be out of their price range.

"Ravel can create something out of nothing," Wilder said on Tuesday. Given they are unlikely to dominate possession against many of their opponents next term, individual magic could be a precious commodity.

Capturing Morrison could prove a masterstroke by United. Providing Morrison always appreciates the opportunity they have given him.

Ravel Morrison trains with Sheffield United: Simon Bellis/Sportimage