Powell impressed in League 2 for Crewe Alexander, with his 16 goals helping the side gain promotion into League 1, and it was only a matter of time before the big clubs would come enquiring about his services.
News of United’s interest broke in early May, just before Powell took on Cheltenham in the League 2 playoff, but United were determined to wrap up a deal for the player before the world were alerted to his talents.
It is a good thing they did too, as Powell would score an impressive effort in the game as Crewe went on to win 2-0.
“He actually first came on our radar a few years ago when he played against our youth team.
“But we watched him seriously from February. Mike Phelan went to see him a few times and so did our chief scout, Jim Lawlor. My brother Martin also went to see him against Torquay before I went for myself, with Mike, when Crewe played Aldershot.
“We were thinking things over, we’d seen a few other Premier League clubs there at the game – Everton, somebody from Arsenal, somebody from Chelsea (they were very keen on Nick) – so we thought it was best to set the wheels in motion.
“We thought that if we waited until the play-offs the secret would be out, so to speak. All the TV cameras would be focussed on him and it might alert a few other clubs.
“Mind you, there were already quite a few interested. As well as Arsenal and Chelsea, we knew Manchester City were keeping tabs on him as well.
“So I phoned [Crewe director of football] Dario Gradi, told him we were keen and we started negotiating. We sorted the deal with the chairman and agreed we’d leave it until after the play-off finals.
“It was all in place a good 10 days beforehand. Nick’s agent told Nick after the match and then he came up to my house the next day and we got the deal done.”