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Nick Powell returns from Leicester City loan; is his development now an issue?

Manchester United have announced that midfielder Nick Powell has returned to the Old Trafford club early from his season-long loan with Leicester City. The former Crewe Alexandra player made three appearances with the Foxes first team this season amounting to 40 minutes coming on as a substitute against West Bromwich Albion, Southampton and Manchester City – with Leicester losing all three matches. Many will suggest that if he was only given three appearances, he may not have been given a fair chance by manager Nigel Pearson.

When a player leaves a club on loan, it is to aid their development. Only so many players can make appearances for a club in a season, and with Powell, United have many better options, so his game time would have been limited, especially with the fact they were knocked out of the Capital One Cup back in August. Powell would have only played U21 football, which is not what the player needs in order to get back on track with his career, which seems to have derailed after his series of injuries whilst with Wigan Athletic last season.

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Powell also made four appearances in Leicester’s U21 side in the Barclays U21 Premier League; two during September against Fulham and Chelsea, one during November against Manchester City, with Leicester beating them 6-2, and against Southampton before Christmas. Many will immediately accuse Leicester for misusing the player, but at the end of the day, if he’s not getting into the first team, all Leicester were doing is trying to maintain his fitness and giving the player a chance to make the manager aware of his abilities. Powell is not short of ability – but there is something wrong with his development. Whilst playing for the U21’s at Leicester he scored two goals, also assisting twice, completing three matches and playing 85 minutes in the fourth.

It does make me wonder why Powell can play to the best of his abilities in the U21 side, yet when he’s been given the chance to play in the first team in the Barclays Premier League, he just did not look all that good, failing to impress the manager, which in turn resulted in him heading back to his parent club earlier than expected. Powell made on appearance for United this season, during the 4-0 defeat to MK Dons in the Capital One Cup, starting the match and being replaced in the 57th minute. He was not match fit at that time, but looked pretty good, having a shot on goal from outside the box.

In May last year, Powell was banned from driving and fined £5,000 after being caught drink driving in April. This is not the sort of thing that we would want to report, as it has nothing to do with football at the end of the day, but it is maybe a warning sign that something has gone wrong in the midfielders life, which is worrying, especially considering the talent the player has. I personally do not blame Leicester City for not utilising the player this season, apart from the three first team appearances and the four appearances in their U21 side. If he has the wrong attitude in training, or does not perform, no manager will select him on the basis of what club he came from.

Whether Powell stays with United now is another matter. With the likes of Michael Carrick, Ander Herrera, Marouane Fellaini, Daley Blind, Darren Fletcher and even Anderson all playing in midfield, with Angel Di Maria, Juan Mata and Wayne Rooney that would occupy the attacking midfield areas, Powell would not get much playing time as he’s not better than most, meaning he would be on the fringes, and playing U21 football. There are rumours linking him with a loan move to Bolton Wanderers, which could be a good move for him, as long as he is willing to put whatever happened at Wigan Athletic and Leicester City behind him and continue his progress.

Powell has a lot to lose should his career continue to falter. I would like to see him make the Manchester United first team, but I also fear he is no longer good enough to do so, especially under a manager like Louis van Gaal, who will not stand for players that do not improve, which is the right way to be. Perhaps a loan spell for the remainder of the season will give the player that kick he needs and giving him the ultimatum; perform or at the end of your current contract, which expires at the end of May 2015, you will be leaving Manchester United as a free agent. I see no reason why a new contract should be offered at this moment in time.

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