They are a team, who under Martin O’Neill’s tutelage, were quite entertaining to watch. While Mr. O’Neill is no longer with the Midlands club, I still enjoy watching some of their players, chief among them one Ashley Young.
Out of sheer boredom and lack of a Manchester United match to watch, I tuned in to England’s Euro 2012 qualifier versus Wales. As I tweeted during the match, I found the whole thing to be a rather drab affair, England winning almost by default as Wales rather resembled a pub team than a team comprised of a nation’s best footballers. One of the few England players to truly stand out during an otherwise lackluster affair was Ashley Young, who turned in an exceptional performance down England’s right wing.
The Aston Villa player played a pivotal role in both of England’s goals, winning a penalty which Frank Lampard converted, and played in an excellent cross for his Villa teammate Darren Bent to tap into the net. Week in, week out, Young does whatever he is asked to by his manager, and with class. I know there are some United supporters who do not think as highly of Young as I do, but I think his pace and ability are hard to deny.
Ashley Young has proven his worth in many areas on the pitch. A natural winger, Young has excellent crossing ability. He is bloody useful on set pieces, having an eye for goal on free kicks and an eye for a great corner kick. Young has six goals and six assists in the Premier League this season. Aston Villa’s success with scoring on set pieces has a lot to do with the work of Young.
Supporters have commented to me, and I am sure other Young supporters, that he does not offer a new dimension to the United attack. While I understand their arguments, I do not see how he is necessarily a redundant acquisition. Young is not only a natural winger, but is also capable of playing in the middle of the park, specifically off of a main target man up front. Many supporters have noted this season that we have lacked a set piece taker, citing Nani’s tendency to hit his free kicks either into the wall or into row z. The same fans that call for Charlie Adam to take care of this flaw ought to change their cause, and call for Ashley Young instead.
Additionally, having more of something that is already a strength for United ought to be a positive. Considering that Ryan Giggs is not, sadly, getting any younger, and our reliance upon his aged legs has been dangerous to say the least. I know that United already has Antonio Valencia, Park Ji-Sung and Nani to man the wide positions, but given Valencia and Park’s lengthy absences from the squad this season and taking into account how many competitions United regularly participate in, signing Ashley Young would add excellent cover and provide the gaffer with another option on match day.
The cherry on top of the ice cream sundae is that things are not exactly rosy at Villa Park these days. Reports abound of changing room disagreements between players and manager with regard to Villa’s personal code of conduct. What’s more, Villa are no longer the mid-table side that with a few lucky results had an opportunity at a Champions League place. Those days have vanished as Villa’s top players have been raided by Manchester City and with Gerard Houllier’s poor management. Young may not see as bright of a future with Aston Villa as he may have a few years ago.
Young is under contract at Aston Villa until 2012, but given his likely dissatisfaction with the team’s performances this year and that Villa sit just a point clear of the drop zone, he will be more than ready to make the jump to a Champions League team. Arsenal, Chelsea and City are set for the most part on the wings, so United will be the only team able to offer Young what he wants. While he has been linked with Liverpool and United, I think if Sir Alex Ferguson wants Ashley Young, he will get him.