The England U21 international has been developing on loan at Wigan Athletic where he has scored 12 goals in 35 appearances for the Championship side. Powell signed for United in 2012 aged 18 under Sir Alex Ferguson and is hailed as a future prospect for the club now under the charge of David Moyes.
The youngster is expected to be included in the first-team squad for next season, despite a number of outgoings at Old Trafford in what looks set to be a big-spending season for the Scottish boss after a turbulent debut season in charge at Old Trafford - but will Powell gain access to opportunity next term?
Powell can operate as an attacking midfielder, a creative playmaker, or as a striker but United presently don’t have a requirement in those areas – between No.10 Wayne Rooney, club record signing Juan Mata, star striker Robin van Persie and England youngster Danny Welbeck, the only opening could conceivably be if out-of-favour Javier Hernandez makes an exit.
This is possible and perhaps even likely given the lack of first-team opportunity the Mexican striker has had with the Red Devils this term but, even if he goes, is Powell ready to make the jump up from Championship level to Premier League level and, furthermore, could he function as a forward?
He is a natural goal scorer, evidenced by his tally this term with Wigan but an out-and-out centre-forward he is not – at least yet – his technical ability and creativity make him ideally suited to a No.10 role in the future but he is no way going to oust Rooney and Mata from that position, even if Shinji Kagawa and Tom Cleverley are out of the picture after poor form this term.
I suspect with the amount of pressure heaped on Moyes’ shoulders this term, the Scot will spend as much as possible on as many top-level players as possible to strengthen his first-team and squad in general this summer and I would expect Powell will probably be surplus to requirement week in week out and subsequently could go back out on loan again next term. At 20 years of age, regular first-team football is what he needs to develop into the star of the future he has the potential to be and sitting on the bench at Old Trafford is not going to improve him as a player.
If Javier Hernandez goes out, I would expect another centre-forward to come in as a like-for-like replacement and I very much doubt Moyes will be looking for another midfield or attacking midfield playmaker to compete with Rooney and Mata. Nick Powell may have been voted Crewe’s greatest ever player but he is going to have to wait for his opportunity to prove himself a great for Manchester United and for the time being his chances will likely be found elsewhere.