As Sir Alex today reiterated that United will come back stronger and fitter next year, attention is inevitably turning towards who will be joining the squad in the summer.
One player who now seems destined to join us is Aston Villa winger, Ashley Young, who is coming into the final 12 months of his contract and is available for £12- £15 million.
Nearly 26 years old, the athletic winger has expressed his desire to leave and it seems Sir Alex is ready to pounce. During the 176 Premier League games in his career, the former Watford winger has bagged 32 goals and 44 assists, in 5 seasons. Now a semi- permanent fixture in the national team, it seems he wants to step up and test himself at the highest level.
However, his speculated arrival has been greeted with some apprehension by the United faithful, who worry it is a sign of Nani’s imminent departure or limited transfer budget (which I don’t believe). Nonetheless, here I intend to discuss whether, or not, Ashley Young has the ability to become our first choice left winger next season.
Ashley Young Last Week:
“I’ve always had the confidence I can play at the highest level… As a kid I wanted to play in the Champions League – and hopefully one day I will. People say the prime of your careers is aged 25, 26, 27. I’m 26 next month so hopefully I’m coming into my prime… I’m going to talk to [Randy Lerner] this week and we’ll see where we go from there.”
Darren Bent On Saturday:
“He has shown people why clubs like Manchester United are after him and he is a top, top player. He has played the last 4 internationals and got 3 MOTM’s so he is on fire at the moment. That’s why teams like United want him… If he wants to go and play for the second-best club side in the world, who is going to stop him?”
Is he Talented Enough?
Similar to how Valencia was greeted with skepticism upon his arrival, people don’t seem to consider Ashley Young United quality, simply because he isn’t a truly exceptional talent.
We all know he is quick, diligent and a good crosser of the ball but some people seem to think he wouldn’t make the grade at Old Trafford, just like Antonio Valencia apparently wouldn’t. Personally, considering his talent and healthy arrogance, I think he could well surprise a few people if he joined us in the coming weeks.
A Right-Footed Left Winger?
Like Nani, Ashley Young is a right footed winger who commonly finds himself on the left. Knowing this both players like to cut inside and allow their full back to provide the width. However, I feel Young is comparatively more dangerous on the left, considering his increased willingness to cross from the byline with his weaker foot and improved delivery.
However, when it comes to playing on the right, I believe Nani is a far superior player. Able to cut inside and shoot from 30 yards, he consistently keeps his defender guessing and is a real threat, whereas Ashley Young can struggle, as his game becomes a bit too predictable. Nonetheless, if Young did come to Old Trafford, I believe he would rarely be used on the right, with Nani and Valencia already battling for that position.
The More Talented LM?
Instead, he would most probably be in direct competition with Ji Sung Park; who had a similar goal-scoring record as him last year of 1 in 4. Vastly more experienced than the English winger, Park would probably be trusted in the big games initially, as Young adapts to European football and the pressure it brings but usually you might expect Young to get the nod ahead of Park, especially in away games, when his pace would compliment our counter-attacking style.
Also in Young’s favour is the lack of a free kick specialist in our side, who can capitalise on the many set plays we have. Dangerous in dead-ball situations, Young can take penalties, corners and free kicks with accuracy and power. Furthermore, Park is 30 years old and approaching the final year of his contract- meaning Sir Alex must be considering who will replace him in the long-term.
Finally, it is clear to us all that Obertan and Bebe are not ready to become consistent starters in the first team and Ryan Giggs is only going to become less suitable to playing on the wing. Therefore, Young would become a viable, experienced and talented 4th winger in our squad, who could add to our depth, versatility and creativity: a good investment!
The End of Berbatov?
With Young’s ability to play as a CAM, just behind the striker, we may see Dimitar Berbatov’s pitch time decrease even further. Speedy, tricky and capable of scoring from far out, Young certainly poses more a frantic threat than that of the serene Bulgarian; who prefers to influence play with his superb control and intricate passing.
However, when Berbatov has been entrusted this role he has been largely ineffective, especially away from home. Add this to his appalling record in the Champions League and Sir Alex may have decided he needs a more potent alternative to Rooney in the deep-lying forward role.
Another Over- Rated Englishman?
Generally, English players are over-priced (as Carroll and Milner demonstrate) and easily over-hyped but the purchase of Young seems logical, considering his talent and value.
Furthermore, especially with the departure of Neville, Scholes, Hargreaves and most probably Wes Brown, Sir Alex will be keen to retain a core of English players in his squad; who he believes understand the culture and mentality of Manchester United better than some players from abroad.
Although there are more talented left wingers, right wingers and centre forwards on the market (in Costa, Sanchez and Modric), I do not believe there is alternative player available quite as versatile, or affordable, as Young.
Interestingly, Arsenal’s Samir Nasri’s could probably play a similar role but I do not believe Wenger would let him join us, despite the fact he only has 12 months left on his contract.
Lastly, I do believe Ravel Morrison has the potential to be a better player than Young, further down the line, but only time will tell if he will fulfill his potential.
Although Young may not have the instant exotic appeal of Sanchez or Neymar, he would most certainly be a pragmatic signing. Blessed with all the attributes to raise his game and perform on the biggest stage, I believe the PFA Young Player of the Year, from 08/09, would be a great addition to our squad.