Ravel Morrison may be in line for a long-awaited first start for Manchester United and the chance to demonstrate why Sir Alex Ferguson is convinced the talented but temperamental teenager is worth the troubles he has occasionally brought to the club.
Morrison's startling performances for United's reserve and youth teams have been offset by a series of off-field issues, court appearances and in-house disciplinary matters, but Ferguson is increasingly of the opinion that the teenager is too good to be left out any longer.
The United manager said Morrison would be "on the bench at least" for the Carling Cup quarter-final against Crystal Palace on Wednesday . The return to fitness of Darron Gibson makes a substitute place more likely, but the fact Ferguson is giving serious consideration to starting Morrison indicates an improvement in his behaviour off the pitch.
Ferguson talked of a "very talented boy" and expressed his belief that Morrison, 18, will have benefited from being one of the club's FA Youth Cup winners to be thrust into first-team training over the past couple of months.
"He has taken part in a lot of the first-team training now with [Paul] Pogba and Larnell [Cole]," Ferguson said. "They enjoy the challenge and it's interesting to see what they are like in these sessions and how they cope with the older players. It lets me judge their temperament and allows me to get a far better picture of how they're progressing and, while this is going on, you hope they're playing well for the reserves and displaying the right attitude and enthusiasm."
Morrison is an attacking midfielder who can run with the ball, score goals and pass the ball wonderfully. He offered a brief glimpse of these talents during a 20-minute substitute appearance in the previous round against Aldershot and will be part of a youthful and experimental squad for the visit of the side currently 10th in the Championship.
"It will be a young squad," Ferguson said. "The only area where I have problems is central midfield and I may play Paul Pogba in there. We will have to wait and see but I have plenty of players to choose from. I need to give games to the players who need them, like [Mame Biram] Diouf and [Federico] Macheda, who is coming back from an arm injury, plus all the younger players like Zeki Fryers and the Da Silva brothers, and [Chris] Smalling has come back so he may play."