Tuesday, 28 June 2011

ASHLEY YOUNG: Profile and Evaluation

Age: 25
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:
·         Nani, primarily a right winger who is improving rapidly and had his best season yet last year
·         Valencia, another right winger who despite being injured for six months has shown he is a real asset and can provide top quality service to the strikers,
·         Park, equally effective across the midfield, and he is one of the best big-game players around
·         And Giggs, occasional left winger who can still be fantastic on his day even if he is now most effective in the centre of midfield

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.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Who Will Be Leaving? Part 1: Defenders & Goalkeepers

With the transfer window yet to get in full swing for Manchester United, we take a look at those players linked with an exit and give our verdict on whether Fergie should keep, sell or loan them. In the first part of this series of articles, we look at the defenders and goalkeepers who could be on their way out…

Tomasz Kusczack: Unfortunately for Kusczack and for United, the Polish international’s 5 year spell at the club has been largely frustrating, and he has not played as often as he wished due to the imperious Van Der Sar. He is not a future Manchester United No.1 and has failed to convince when called upon this year. He was very fortunate his mistakes in the crucial game against Blackburn didn't prove costly and the game summed up his erratic goalkeeping. Kusczack claims that he needs to be selected consistently to perform at his best, so lets hope at his next club (possibly West Brom) he is given the chance to shine. Thanks for the service Tomasz, but you are someone to definitely SELL.

Ben Amos: A very young and promising goalkeeper who only has a Carling Cup appearance to his name, it might be beneficial for Amos to be loaned out next year so he can gain some first team experience. With De Gea only 20 himself and Anders Lindegaard relatively young, it is unlikely Amos will ever be our number one, but he could prove to be a good back up option in the future. A championship or at worst league one side where he can play consistently as their number one would be a suitable move, so for now he should be sent to one on LOAN. A recall option on the loan would be necessary in case of injuries to one or both of our two other goalkeepers.
Brown is set to leave after 15 years at the club

Wes Brown: Out of favour with Fergie all year after insulting him (as a 'joke') when with younger players on the pre season tour, a move to Sunderland seems most likely for Brown. Ferguson can be very ruthless and though Wes has proved a useful back up in two positions over the years, he is now surplus to requirements with Evans, Smalling, Rafael, Fabio, O'shea, Vidic, Ferdinand and reserve team player of the year Oliver Gill all able to play in the position he occupies. It has been a poor season for him, and United fans were sad to see he didn’t get the 10 premier league appearances which are required for a medal. His performances in 07-08 will always be remembered but unfortunately, though I wouldn't mind to see him stay, once you mess with the boss there is no going back. Therefore the verdict on Wes Brown has to be SELL, with a move to Bolton, Everton, Sunderland (who have had a bid accepted) or Aston Villa most likely.

John O'Shea: Once again this season he has proved to be a useful back up, filling in well at left back, centre back and centre midfield. He has mainly been used at right back and was our first choice there early in the season. The opinion of most United fans, and it seems of the manager in the latter stages of the season, is that he is an effective back up but not good enough to be first choice. Rafael and Fabio have both showed that they are better at both going forward and defending, but O'Shea's versatility makes him the perfect option on the bench as he removes the need to have both a centre back and a full back there. He was unlucky with a few injuries and missed out on a place in the squad for the Champions League final, but overall it's been a good season for O'Shea and I think as a homegrown player he is one to KEEP. However, with a bid from Sunderland accepted for the Irishman, it now looks increasingly likely O’Shea will be heading through the Old Trafford exit door.

Jonny Evans: The young Northern Ireland international has had a very patchy season, with poor early performances leaving him out of favour for the majority of the year. He has suffered from frustrating injuries and a lack of confidence that has stilted his progress, and with the signing of Phil Jones his future at the club is in question. There is no doubt there have been games to forget for Evans, with his performances in our first defeat of the season against Wolves and in the 4-0 loss to West Ham particular lowlights, while his red card later in the season against Bolton could have been costly. But past seasons for us, and for Sunderland on loan have shown that he has talent, and his ability to fill in at left back is a big boost with Fabio being used at right back and O’Shea potentially leaving. I think that the 23 year old needs a 6 month LOAN move (and some work on his upper body strength!) to regain his confidence and prove himself, before the boss makes a decision. If he stays his playing time will be limited and he will be under pressure to perform when selected and take his chance.

Look out for a similar feature on the site about our midfielders and strikers in the coming days.