Manchester United under-21 manager Warren Joyce says Nick Powell is in the best condition of his life having worked hard to return from career-threatening injury.
Powell joined United in a high-profile move from Crewe Alexandra in 2012. With rumours flying of a move to Old Trafford, 18 year old Powell struck a superb volley from outside the 18-yard box for Crewe in the League 2 Play-Off Final at Wembley Stadium to see his club promoted. A month later, he signed for Man United in the best year of his life.
Expectations were high, with Sir Alex Ferguson and many others comparing him to United legend, one of the greatest midfielders in the Premier League era, Paul Scholes. Yet Powell has failed to live up to that expectation, and has hardly been worth the £6million, including add-ons, paid for him.
Powell has not lived up to potential, yet
At times, though, he has showed glimpses of fulfilling such potential. On his debut for United in September 2012 against Wigan Athletic, who he would later go on loan to, he scored another great volley from outside the box in a 4-0 win.
He played a further five times in that 2012/13 season, with Ferguson keen to get him used to United and playing at a huge club quickly. It was another 629 days before he played again, though. Louis van Gaal tested him out in United's humiliating 4-0 defeat to Milton Keynes Dons.
Multiple injuries and a disenchantment with football led many to believe, and reportedly the player himself, that he could be on his way out of football at just 21. Yet Warren Joyce says he has turned a corner with injury and is now ready to return with huge potential.
He suffered a serious hamstring injury against Everton U21 in February this year and has been struggling since.
Powell has been working 'extremely hard' says manager
Speaking to the club's official website, ManUtd.com. Joyce said, "Nick's worked extremely hard. It's been a testing time, as you expect when you're injured and obviously out for this amount of time with an injury. But his attitude has been outstanding in the gym and out on the training field."
Joyce says that Powell "is looking in the best condition he has ever been in his life." United play Norwich City in the U21 Premier League on November 23rd and the club and player are hoping for his return then.
It is not just a return that is wanted though, Powell needs to become at least a faint replica of what was predicted for him. "Hopefully, he kicks on with that now when the games start coming" because for Joyce "there is no doubt how much talent he has got."
"Some of the stuff you see from him is outstanding," Joyce told Man United's official website. Continuing, he said, "he's a high top-level talent so hopefully he can get a run of matches."
Powell has been on two loan spells while at United. In the 2013/14 season he joined Wigan on loan, scoring the club's first ever European goal after they had qualified by winning the FA Cup the season before.
He had a good year at Wigan and signs were positive that he could return to United and be on the edge of the first team. Yet Van Gaal, having assessed him in the few months since replacing David Moyes, decided to let him leave on loan to Leicester City. It was a torrid time at the King Power Stadium. After a few months his loan was terminated because of a poor attitude in training. Now, it's the opposite, says Joyce.
Powell working hard to return from career-threatening injury says Joyce
"He's certainly put in the hours in the gym and on the training pitch," Joyce said. "[He] is probably in the best condition physically he has ever been in his life."
"People forget how young he is. He is still a young player with a very bright career in front of him," Joyce continued.
Chances for Powell are unlikely to come at United this season in the first team. The focus is fully on being able to play again, then improving and then searching for first team football. As Joyce says though, people forget how young he is. At 21, he's younger than Jesse Lingard who has just had a good run of spells in the United side.
If Powell is going to break into the first team at Old Trafford, Van Gaal will give him the chance to do so. Joyce says he has a very bright career in front him, maybe we'll finally get to see it now.