Ashley Young’s transfer from Aston Villa to Manchester United back in 2011 evoked divided opinions from the club’s supporters. Former manager Sir Alex Ferguson signed off the deal to bolster his side’s attacking impetus.
Even though life in Manchester kicked off in spectacular fashion, the former England international has been a somewhat forlorn figure in the past couple of seasons.
Having spent a considerable chunk of the last couple of years on the sickbed or on the bench, there have been serious doubts about his future as a Manchester United player. Until, a certain Dutchman called Louis van Gaal was handed the reigns of the club.
Young has impressed this season
Van Gaal’s acclaimed system of 5-3-2 did wonders for him with the Dutch national team at this year’s World Cup in Brazil. And Young, being the most unlikeliest of candidate, is seemingly flourishing under this new regime.
The former Villa man impressed many playing as the wing-back in a five-man defence in United’s pre-season tour of the United States. And this was not gone unnoticed as Van Gaal rewarded his efforts and gave him a starting berth in the side early on in the season when new arrival Luke Shaw was out injured.
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Another injury blow
Then came the inevitable as Young fell pray to another injury and his progress was once again, quite unfortunately, cut short.
But fortune favoured the 29-year-old once again as Shaw’s departure from an ankle injury in the first half against Arsenal at the Emirates provided a golden opportunity for Young to prove his proficiency playing in the wing-back role. He didn’t disappoint as his steady and composed performance down the left flank help United secure a 2-1 victory and Van Gaal’s first win on the road as a United manager.
Then came the game against Hull City at Old Trafford where United thumped their opponents 3-0. Although Juan Mata, Ander Herrera and Robin Van Persie stole the limelight, Young seamlessly went about his job and capped off yet another solid display in this new role.
Selection dilemma for Van Gaal
This followed with a trail of consistent performances until he tore his hamstring in the New Year's Day draw with Stoke City. His imminent return will in all likelihood, put Van Gaal in a bit of a selection dilemma.
Luke Shaw, being one of the best young fullbacks on the planet, will be the first on every United fan’s preferred starting XI. Is this the time for Young to finally look for pastures new? Or should he be kept in the squad for times like these where United’s annual defensive crisis catches up and calls for more defensive minded players? That’s open for debate.
As of now, Young is proving to be a valuable asset to the club. His surprisingly composed ability to track back and defend added with his aptitude for finding an acute pass or cross in the final third, the former Watford man is in line to provide a strong case for his survival to Van Gaal in the upcoming games.
And add to the fact that at 29 years of age, he is not getting any younger, no pun intended. This could and should be the winger’s final season at the club, that’s the general consensus anyway. The once revered winger should do justice to himself and look for a new club in the summer transfer window next year where he will be able to get a consistent run of games and live out his days as a Premier League player.