By Martyn Herman
LONDON (Reuters) - Alex Ferguson may have had a wry smile on his face when hearing news of midfielder Ravel Morrison's solo goal for West Ham United in their 3-0 win at Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday.
Nearly two years after Ferguson allowed a teenaged Morrison to leave Old Trafford, his patience worn thin by a series of off-field antics, his prediction that the academy graduate could one day become a "top class" player looks accurate.
The 20-year-old completed West Ham's shock win at Spurs, their first at White Hart Lane since 1999, with a solo goal after racing away from Belgium defender Jan Vertonghen, bamboozling England international Michael Dawson and then dinking the ball over France's first choice keeper Hugo Lloris.
It was a stunning glimpse of the potential spotted by Ferguson but which had seemed like being fritted away after several run-ins with the law, including being given a 12-month referral order for witness intimidation.
"He's 20, but he's quite old in terms of years but he's learnt so much in a short period of time. That's the beauty. The penny has dropped," West Ham manager Sam Allardyce, who described the goal as "genius" told the BBC.
"Sir Alex Ferguson told me I hope you can sort him out because you will have a top class player on the your hands, I'm not sure I've done that but he's enjoying his football. He can do something no one else can do and we saw that today."
Morrison joined West Ham in January 2012 but was loaned out to Birmingham City where, after some initial problems, he began to earn rave reviews.
After returning to Upton Park he has flourished, scoring his first Premier League goal this month in a 3-2 defeat by Everton and has been called into the England fold at under-21 level.
Experienced West Ham midfielder Kevin Nolan has seen Morrison's impact from close quarters this season and believes he is finally learning from his mistakes.
"Last year we had a lot of problems with him and his lifestyle off the pitch but he went to Birmingham on loan and worked hard and came back and got back in the team," Nolan said.
"Me and Mark Noble speak to him and have had big long chats with him and we like to protect him and take him under our wing.
"We are excited by his talent, and I think you are now starting to see the player that Manchester United saw when he was younger."
West Ham had not registered an away goal all season before Sunday's London derby but struck three times in 13 minutes after the interval to cause the shock of the weekend.
(Reporting by Martyn Herman; editing by Josh Reich)