Time for Manchester United to cash in on 21-year-old wonderkid that was

Italy Flag

Davide Petrucci's chances of breaking through at Manchester United look more remote than ever before.

When Manchester United raided Italian club Roma for the signing of talented starlet Davide Petrucci back in 2008 they hoped he would become the club's next big star.

Five years on and the midfielder is yet to make a first team appearance, or even get close to doing so.

So at the age of 21, with one year remaining on his contract, surely it is time for the club to let him move on and play regular football.

It wasn't supposed to be like this; Petrucci won Italy under-19 caps back in 2010 and appeared to be on schedule for a promising career for his country.

An attacking midfielder with an eye for goal, it was his 14 strikes in nine games for Roma's youth team which first attracted United's attention.

And then injury struck with Petrucci missing more than a year of action due to a knee problem, which set back his progress.

Upon his comeback, Petrucci began playing more of a withdrawn role for United's youth teams, deeper in midfield than the attacking role he had featured in so prominently in his mid-teens.

Even this season Petrucci was in and out of United's under-21 side, making five appearances in the first half of the season, but when he was on the pitch he impressed, scoring once and making three assists.

Yet this was not enough to get him close to the first team, not even in League Cup matches, and he was loaned out in January.

He took a familiar route to a number of United starlets in recent years, to Peterborough United's London Road, where the former United manager's son, Darren Ferguson, is in charge.

Petrucci played in four games, scoring one superb strike, but that was as good as it got, with his time there cut short by a hamstring injury.

Peterborough ended up getting relegated, and if Petrucci wants to rejoin them it will be in League One.

And that may be a good move for him, but permanently rather than on loan.

It's time surely for United to let go of the youngster and allow him to blossom in a permanent environment, for the chances of him making it at United appear remote.

And it's a shame, because he is a very talented young footballer, but one who is not at the level United require him to be if he is to become a regular or even a bit-part player.

Petrucci may well go on and fulfil his potential, but letting him make his own path now is the best move, and United can surely receive a few hundred thousand pounds in return for his signature.

Small change in football terms, but better than letting him walk away on a free transfer next summer.

With it questionable and probably unlikely they will offer Petrucci a new contract, there is one crucial reason why they should cash in now.

In the clause of any sale, United can insist on a buy-back clause should he look like fulfilling his potential.

This is preferable to when he leaves on a free transfer in the summer of 2014, and United will have no way to insist on such a clause when he picks his club of choice.

For there is every chance Petrucci could still develop into a special player in the long-term, but it is likely to take a few years for his development is behind due to injury and he remains prone to such, a vicious circle effect of not playing regular football.

And United sadly do not have the time to wait, nor is it fair to restrict him further. Petrucci should move on and begin a new chapter and hope destiny one day takes him back to United.

image: © ell-r-brown

Register for MANCHESTER UNITED team updates

Register for HITC Sport - Daily Dispatch