12 months ago the possibility of Ashley Young leaving Manchester United would have overjoyed fans of the Red Devils. However a lot can change in the space of the year, a sentiment proven by the English winger over the last campaign.
Last summer few could have anticipated that there would be any cause for debate over whether Young should be given a new contract, such were his struggles in his first few years with United. Yet here we are. Young silenced many of his critics last season and was arguably the clubs best outfield player over the course of the campaign.
Despite his excellent form, contract talks don't appear to be progressing smoothly and there has been talk that the 30-year-old could be on his way out. However, Young has surely earned a place in this new look United team.
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Many rival fans will not let United forget the struggles that Young has had during his career with the club. It's true that the winger, signed from Aston Villa, has underperformed for much of his United career. After a promising debut season in which he managed eight goals and 12 assists in all competitions, things went downhill.
In the next campaign he didn't find the net in 23 games and managed a mere five assists. The Englishman fared little better during David Moyes' brief spell in charge of the club. Three goals and five assists from thirty games simply wasn't good enough.
Thus last summer was the perfect opportunity to get rid of the former Villa man. A new manager had come in and a rebuild had begun, the deadwood could have been moved on. Make no mistake Young was deadwood last summer. He didn't deserve the chance he got last season, but boy did he take it. The club has had ample opportunity to ship him out down the years but have kept him despite his poor form, this makes getting rid of him after his best season with the club nonsensical.
STEPPING UP TO THE PLATE
Young was one of a number of United players playing for their future at the club last season. The arrival of £59.7 million Angel di Maria seemed to all but spell the end of his Manchester United career. This was not the case though and while the Argentine struggled, Young proved that he was up for the fight.
Young performed consistently over the course of the season and managed 26 appearances in the Premier League. However it was in the second half of the season when the winger really came to the fore. He formed a formidable partnership with Marouane Fellaini down the left hand side and was easily United's best outfield player after the turn of the year.
Though a total of two goals and six assists is underwhelming, his overall contribution was admirable. The 30-year-old displayed an excellent work rate throughout the season. One of his best traits was his willingness to get to the byline and cross on his weaker left foot. This is something that too few professional footballers are willing to do.
Young was an ever present over the second half of the season and performed so well that he kept the lacklustre di Maria out of the team. No questions were asked about this decision from van Gaal. The fans who had wanted him gone less than a year before now recognised that he was more deserving of a place in the team than their record signing.
Ashley Young truly stepped up to the plate last season. If United are awarding new contracts based on form then there should be no debate over whether to give Young a new deal. With the rebuild continuing this summer Young has earned his place in this new look United team.
At 30, he's not a long term option for United but a side can always use a player with such a tireless work rate. To have kept him after so many bad seasons only to sell him after his best would be an injustice.
The arrival of Memphis Depay has put Young's starting place at risk. While the Dutchman has no God-given right to come in and immediately go into the starting line-up, it's widely expected that the 21-year-old will be one of the first names on the team-sheet.
Depay may well be a technically better player but to simply discard one of the club's best players from last season seems wrong. Even if he's not going to be a regular he still deserves at least some role in the squad. United have a poor record with injury, thus back-up is obviously going to be needed.
Young stepped up his performances last season while others didn't. He's shown his desire to play for the club and done everything he can to earn a new contract. Now if there's any justice he will get the reward that he deserves.
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