It is almost painful for Manchester United fans to look back and remember a talented, but hardly breath-taking youngster by the name of Gerard Pique leaving the club in 2008 to join Barcelona.
Four La Liga titles, two Copa del Rey’s, two Champions League wins, a European Championship title and one World Cup triumph later and it is fair to say they probably wish the tall holding midfielder, turned centre back, had remained a Red Devil.
Pique arrived at United for nothing in 2004 as a fresh faced 17-year-old but after finding first-team opportunities difficult to come by at Old Trafford.
That, allied with his previous affinity for Barca, saw him make a return to the Nou Camp in 2008 and he has certainly not looked back since.
But that does not mean he doesn’t appreciate the obvious impact Untied had on shaping his career - in particular one man, Sir Alex Ferguson.
Fergie’s reputation for blossoming young talent needs no real explanation. A selection of names such as Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, Cristiano Ronaldo, David Beckham etc lets you know just how good he was at managing young players.
And, in an exclusive interview with Bleacher Report, Pique spoke of just how important Sir Alex was in his development and subsequent career:
“I learned so much from him—he was like a father to me when I was there. I have a great deal of affection and respect for him. He’s a legend…With all the work he had with the first team, it seemed amazing to me that he found the time to know every single player at the club and their families personally and was always there willing to help out…I owe him a great deal.”
With him gone much emphasis is now on how David Moyes will nurture young talent at the club. At Everton he was often cautious with the likes of Wayne Rooney an Ross Barkley - but nonetheless not afraid to throw them in at the deep end.
His utilisation of Adnan Januzaj this term has probably saved United’s season - as the young Belgian has been the breakout star in the Premier League this campaign.
If Moyes can adopt the role Fergie had with his young players then the future for the likes of Januzaj, Nick Powell, Jesse Lingard and even out of favour forward Wilfried Zaha looks bright.
As long as none of them do a Pique, and split after a few years.
image: © seriouslysilly