Allen Hamilton

Gary Neville once reflected on his approach to fulfilling his potential at Manchester United by recalling advice from his father – “You’ve got two years to give it a real go. Never look back and wish you had done more.”

These words particularly struck a chord after Sir Alex Ferguson sold talented youngster Ravel Morrison to Championship high-fliers West Ham last month. The 19-year-old was a key cog in Manchester United’s Youth Cup-winning side in 2011 and was widely regarded as one of the best youngsters to emerge from the Old Trafford academy. Comparisons with Wayne Rooney barely seemed far fetched and there was a sense that Ferguson was shelving plans to invest in the likes of Wesley Sneijder or Nicolas Gaitan because he had future stars closer to home.

But Morrison’s behaviour off the pitch, including Twitter outbursts, brushes with the law and a court appearance last year, eventually overshadowed his potential on it, abruptly ending the possibility of the midfielder following in the footsteps of Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes and David Beckham.

His future at Old Trafford could have been so bright. It is no secret that the club are crying out for a dynamic spark in midfield – and the impact of Tom Cleverley earlier this season should have provided ample inspiration. Instead, it is possible that Morrison will join the long list of highly-rated youngsters who never reached their potential. After all, it is all too telling that Manchester United decided that cutting ties with the youngster was a shrewder move than continued attempts to nurture his talent.

“In the case of Ravel it’s been quite well documented", said Ferguson. “I think he’s better out of Manchester. He’s got a great talent but it’s how to deal with it that is important.”

The life of a professional footballer comes with all kinds of perks. But there is also a real danger that off pitch distractions and lucrative pay packets can steer players off course, abruptly ending dreams of playing at the highest level.

Again, there are lessons to be learned from Neville’s approach to the game. Eric Harrison, the former youth team coach at Old Trafford, put Neville’s rise to the first team down to “the two Ds” – desire and dedication. And the former Manchester United captain has openly admitted that his attitude played a big role in his formative years. He was determined that if he failed to make the grade, it would not be for the lack of effort and, as a result, he could have no regrets.

The chances are that if Morrison had followed this example, he would still be at Old Trafford – and perhaps already in the first team. Whether a move to London will help revive his young career is open to debate but, for West Ham, adding Morrison was a bold move that should energise their promotion push. And Hammers boss Sam Allardyce is a master at getting the best out of somewhat unique characters – think Jay-Jay Okocha, El Hadji Diouf and Joey Barton.

“I’m really pleased to have signed", Morrison said after competing the deal. “The move has happened very quickly and I’m looking forward to hopefully moving up to the Premier League with West Ham soon. I’m an attacking player and I’m hoping to get the fans on their feet."

“Ravel is a talented lad and if he really wants to be a player then we will help him as much as we can along the way,” Allardyce added.

No one is questioning Morrison’s talent and ability to take over a game from midfield – and securing first team football in the Championship might be the launch pad he needs.

But it is hard to believe that Morrison will not eventually look back on his short Manchester United career and wish that he had approached the game with the same devotion that a teenage Neville showed on his way to more than 16 years at the highest level.