COMMENT: We'll know in days. Maybe even hours. There's no ducking this now. Angel Gomes is going to have to decide whether he sticks or twists...
The club turned the screw last week. With registrations due for the remainder of this extended season, Manchester United chose not to hand Gomes a deal to tide him over. The midfielder already had his contract offer. A good one. There would be no more dragging things out. Either Gomes signed what was in front of him or it was time to move on. The ball has been in his court.
And as it stands. It looks like Gomes is going to take that ball and go home. There'll be frustration on United's side of the table. Exasperation amongst the coaching staff at Carrington. But there will also be some understanding...
News on Sunday that Jack Grealish has identified his dream home in the Northwest won't come as a surprise to those at Carrington. And to be fair, Gomes' minders will have been across it too. It's been no secret that the Aston Villa captain has been putting down foundations these past six months in anticipation of a move north. That this deal is now getting closer - and the noises from the manager is that Paul Pogba will also be staying - cannot but be weighing heavily on the mind of Gomes.
We've discussed this before. And it's an almost unique dilemma for United's coaching staff. But trying to find a pathway to the first team for Gomes has been agonising for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. United's manager rates Gomes - and highly. And he likes the type of player Gomes is. But he's never going to be at his best being played out of position. Indeed, there's been debate within the club that it could even set him backwards. Whether it be on a flank. As a wing-back. Anywhere a young midfielder would usually be introduced, such roles don't fit Gomes. Playing centrally, behind the strikers - or slightly deeper - is where it all comes together for the England U20 international. In other words, the Pogba position - or the Grealish role.
Hope was offered last week with the confirmation of United's retained list. While his name was absent, nine of Gomes' peers appeared. But that was simply those players who had been informed they were no longer required. Gomes has a contract on the table. United and Solskjaer have made it clear how much they rate and how much they want to keep him. But as it stands, there's pessimism amongst those who have long worked with Gomes.
One who was on that released list was Largie Ramazani. But it wasn't the decision United wanted to make. Terms were discussed with the Belgian. Ramazani had done enough - more so to be fair - with the U23s to be retained. He was on the fringes of the first team. And had made his Champions League debut at Astana - which was no throwaway gesture by Solskjaer. The manager giving Ramazani that introduction to first team football with a long-term view. Big things were expected.
All that sacrifice his family had made was paying off. After coming through Anderlecht's system, the Ramazanis took a gamble with Largie at 12 years of age. Moving to London. Rejected by Fulham. By Chelsea. But finally landing scholarship forms with Charlton Athletic, the promise shown at Anderlecht was to be realised with the Addicks. And then it came. At 16. An offer from Manchester United. A year later he was signing a first pro deal - and being invited to train with the first team by Jose Mourinho.
Largie Ramazani was a United player. Rapid. Tricky. One who can play across the midfield and off a centre-forward. He's a talent. A potential crowd favourite. But he is also raw. Incomplete. And two years on from that first contract, the demands he was making for his second were just too rich. It couldn't be justified. He still had some way to go before earning such figures. An opinion relayed to us, which was confirmed virtually on the same day by a source speaking with the Manchester Evening News, stating "United were unprepared to match the demands of a player who did not necessarily have a long-term future at the club and staff expect Ramazani to join a second division side in Spain". Or in other words, he thought himself better than he was.
Wesley Sonck, who coached Ramazani with Belgium U18s, has been prepared to go on record and confirms what staff have told this column and those closer to home: “I just thought he lacked efficiency and focus and sometimes went a bit too much for his own success. He also worked too little without the ball and apparently he heard that at United too."
So there is work for Ramazani to do. Areas where he must improve. And it'll have to be away from United. But he can get to that level. It would be no surprise if that word, however harsh, to the MEN was made in the player's best interests. Pin it to your fridge. Stick it on your phone. And keep reading it until you prove us wrong... the canniest youth coaches are like that.
Sonck again: "He has all the tools to go far. Provided he shows the right attitude."
So United could be losing two potential world-beaters this week. There's no doubting Gomes' potential. And for this column, in terms of pure talent, the same can be claimed for Ramazani.
But this industry's ruthless. And it waits no-one. We'll know in days, maybe hours, whether Angel Gomes will be following Largie Ramazani out of Carrington for the final time.