It was a signing that had been predicted by many. The fee was much too high for a player in the last year of his contract and the lack of Champions League experience saw the acquisition of Ashley Young questioned.
At Aston Villa he had performed well and been a thorn in United’s side whenever the two teams met. Once he arrived though and the 2011/12 season was underway, much of the negativity surrounding his arrival evaporated as he enjoyed as good a start to an Old Trafford career as any new signing. His contribution in the away win at West Brom was surpassed by his double strike in the 8-2 demolition of Arsenal.
What struck me most, was his work ethic. Not blessed with a great deal of trickery to beat a man, he covered a lot of ground for the cause and was clearly relishing his promotion on to the bigger stage.
Soon though, the negativity would re-emerge. The inconsistency of his performances perplexed supporters and for every moment of brilliance conjured away at Spurs (two goals in a 3-0 win) and Norwich (the cross for Giggs to score a dramatic winner) there were too many matches where all that was offered was mediocrity. Even the workrate subsided as injuries began to disrupt his season.
The trouble with playing for United is that everyone watches you. A strength will only work for so long before defenders find away to counter it. That is something that not so young Ashley has failed to adapt to. Getting the ball on the touchline now for the England international will see him try one of two things: create a yard for the sort of delivery which saw Giggs volley home at Carrow Road or a dummied cross and scamper to the by-line in the way he forced an own goal at the Hawthornes,
Other than that, there isn’t much else. In a team with Robin Van Persie, his ability on dead-ball situations is not needed. His once excellent work ethic can now be replicated by Danny Welbeck in the same role and even with a permanent vacancy on that left hand side, it seems Young is not the man for the job.
And of course there’s the diving. Not just to win penalties, but to win free-kicks that would be awarded anyway if he were to simply go down without the exaggerated thrust forward with both legs dolphin kicking him into a forward roll. It’s embarrassing when it happens in any game but when it happens in friendly matches, as it did on this season’s tour, it makes the situation all the more tragic.
‘Falling’ the way he does is also ill-advised for someone who appears as frail as the former Villain. For everytime he hits the deck he gets up with the caution of someone getting up from a wheel chair for the first time. And then he would not be seen for four weeks. I’m not saying that the injuries aren’t genuine, but you have to question the footballing brain of a winger who seems to find it so difficult to anticipate a challenge and take the necessary evasive action. How many times was Giggs kicked? How many times was he subbed because of it?
Two seasons into his Old Trafford career and already the call is for him to be moved on. I personally agree. I thought he was a good player at first but the more you watch him, the worse he gets. His billy big bollocks act on the mic during the bus parade having contributed so little to last season’s success would have made David May cringe.
He was there last season, in fact he was trusted in almost all of the big games, but that is where you find out if a good player at Villa is a good player for United. A new manager may breathe new life into his performances if he makes it through the transfer window and onto the pitch again for United. I’m certain Moyes will have in his mind the devastating way Young tore his Everton side apart at Goodison a couple of years ago, scoring an excellent last gasp winner in a 3-2 win.
The memory of that fixture may see Moyes offer Young one last chance to show the supporters he is worthy of more than the vast criticism he is receiving on twitter at the moment. With the emergence of Jesse Lingard, supporters will soon voice their opinion if a home-grown player’s progress is halted by a player who continues to waste every first team chance he gets.
I expect Ashley to still be a United player once the August window shuts but come January it could be time for Jesse to take emerge as a first team player. Young may well then find himself offloaded where he will be good player for another club but as the last two years have proved, he isn’t good enough for United.