Favoured Position: Left Wing
Can also play: As a second striker or on the right wing.
Cost of transfer: Around £15 million
Total Club Career Appearances: 255
Total Club Career Goals: 49
Ashley Young is the second confirmed signing of the transfer window and he joins after having been linked with a transfer to Man Utd since January. The player is eager to develop and play Champions League football, with this being the main reason he rejected Liverpool to join us. Young joined Watford’s academy as a teenager and made his debut as an 18 year old against Milwall in September 2003, managing to get on the scoresheet. He developed rapidly at Watford with increasing first team action, becoming the club’s young player of the year in 2005 after 34 appearances in the Championship. His best season for Watford came in 05-06 when the club gained promotion to the premier league. Young played in 41 games, finding the net 15 times along the way.
After a good start to his Premier League career in the following year many clubs made a move for him, but he held out to eventually secure a £9.75 million move to Aston Villa which was completed on the 23rd of January 2007. Over the years at Aston Villa he became their most dangerous attacking player and the focal point of the team when going forward. He has averaged around 36 appearances and 5-8 goals in each of his 4 seasons at the club, while most of his goals are scored from fairly central positions outside the box, with his preference being to cut inside from the left and then shoot from distance. His game is heavily based on creating chances and in the last four seasons he has made a total of 55 assists, and his strongest year was 2008 where he got 17. Young was also the first player to win three player of the month awards in the same year (2008) and also made the Premier League team of the year in that season, the only player from a team outside the ‘big four’ to do so.
He has won the 2009 PFA Young Player of the Year award, but internationally Young has made little impact despite making his debut for the national team in November 2007. He has only made 15 appearances for England and missed out on a place in the 2010 World Cup squad. Recently he has become more of a prominent figure on the international stage, and was undoubtedly the star of England’s most recent Euro 2012 qualifier, helping the team come back to secure a draw after being behind by a 2 goal margin.
Many United fans have derided the signing of Young, claiming he is an average player and that we need some world class pedigree or raw potential like Sanchez rather than someone who will never be the best in his position. However, I disagree and feel that it is best quash those views immediately:
In the wing positions before his signing we had:
Valencia and Nani are first choice, but both are far more effective on the right than they are on the left. And while Park is an effective choice in the big games (at least when we’re not playing Barcelona), he just doesn’t possess the skill or pace to suit our style when playing most teams. This means a left winger was required for ‘bread and butter’ games in the premier league, and for that there simply isn’t any better alternative than A.Young. Though fans are eager for a marquee signing, on the market there really aren’t any/many left wingers available. We have also been linked to Sanchez but he is mainly a right winger (we don’t need that) and would cost upwards of £35 million which would appear to be out of our price range and over-estimates his value.
Young is a left winger and he provides proven Premier League pedigree and experience for a reasonable price of £15 million. Rumours that he will be paid £120,000 a week are wide of the mark and the notion of Ferguson breaking the wage structure of the club for this player is unlikely. So, importantly, he provides value for money and fits the description of the type of player we needed perfectly. He is a more direct player than Nani but is similar to Valencia in the way he has one trademark move. For Young it is to cut inside onto his right foot and whip a cross in, for Valencia it is to dummy and then essentially knock the ball past the defender with his right and whip a cross in. Strength is his biggest weakness as he lacks a physical presence, but he works very hard and Villa fans say he really steps it up for big games.
It seems Young plays best when motivated and rewarded, with his best season 2007-08 being his first at Villa and the one where his contribution was most recognised through awards and an England call up throughout the year. At Man Utd he will be under the sort of pressure in which he thrives due to the competition for places, and will have a real incentive to prove himself. The injury of Valencia this year highlighted the need for an extra body in that position as Obertan was unable to step up and Nani was under pressure for the year, with him being our only established winger for long periods. Therefore the signing of Young plugs the gaps and adds the extra depth and security that is needed throughout a season. Admittedly, if his signing was to come at the expense of Nani, the majority of United fans would rightfully be angry and disappointed. Selling our player of the year would not send out the right message. Nani has released some quotes in recent days, in which he has re-affirmed his commitment to the club and said definitively that he is staying, and these have gone some way to re-assuring the fans.
In conclusion, this is another astute buy from Ferguson and we should be pretty happy with the signing of Young. His ability to play both on the right and as a second striker makes him a useful squad player at the very least. But I think that he will be an effective player through the year, and while he may not help us get closer to Barcelona in terms of quality or make a difference in that type of game, he is a solid winger who will do a good job in the majority of matches and provide the extra spark and service we lacked at times this year. Service to Chicharito and Rooney should be better than ever next year with three great crossers in the squad available for the boss.