Although Sir Alex Ferguson’s smiling embrace of Pep Guardiola following his Manchester United side’s schooling at the hands of Barcelona in last month’s Champions’ League Final at Wembley was interpreted as the Scot’s eventual acceptance of the Catalan club’s European dominance, and the confirmation that Ferguson’s European legacy may remain at just two titles once he retires, the Old Trafford outfit’s prompt transfer activity this summer appears to signal an immediate desire to topple the Camp Nou empire.
Nothing has been finalised yet but it seems Spanish Under-21 goalkeeper David de Gea will arrive in Manchester imminently to complete a transfer worth in the region of £20million, Phil Jones has already secured his first professional transfer by leaving Blackburn for a fee of £16.5million, and Ashley Young sealed a move to Manchester United player this week to the tune of £17million+.
Wesley Sneijder, Luka Modric and Alexis Sanchez have also been heavily linked with an Old Trafford move, and though de Gea and Jones have been ‘bought’ with strategic necessity – de Gea to replace the retired Edwin van der Sar and Jones as a long-term solution to Rio Ferdinand – Young’s potential appearance in the red of United next season has caused confusion in several quarters. The club may have struggled against Barcelona but conquered the Premiership yet again with an all too familiar swagger for the twelfth time, largely thanks to the League’s top assister, Nani, and the dependable performances of Park Ji-Sung, not to mention that Ferguson retains the services of Antonio Valencia; arguably the most capable winger of the three. So what then is the need for a fourth wide-man at Old Trafford and what could Young provide Ferguson that he may not have accomplished from his current creative charges?
First and foremost Young is, as his name would imply, at a good age to adjust instantly at a club in the higher reaches of the League. Having made his name at Watford in the Championship and for four years at Villa Park, the 25 year-old has experienced a natural career progression and was a palpable stand-out in an otherwise flat Aston Villa side last season, scoring 9 and assisting 14. He is incredibly versatile and has adapted to a number of attacking positions under four different managers in the Premiership in as many years, and has conceded as much, saying: “I believe in being versatile and I’m happy to play on the left, on the right or through the middle.”
His pace and trickery are unequalled by England standards and his noticeable flair had him recognised by none other than Real Madrid just two years ago. He has featured 15 times for his country, is considered by Fabio Capello as a significant part of his future plans and scored in England’s 2-2 draw with Switzerland earlier this month. Young is consistent with corners, something Nemanja Vidic would relish, and free-kicks, an area that hasn’t been effectively addressed since the departure of Cristiano Ronaldo in 2009.
He has been more-or-less the first name on the team-sheet at Villa so will have to acknowledge the difficulties in forcing his way in to a talented team like United. In my view, his quality aligned with an adaptability which allows him to play anywhere across the front make him an ideal signing for the club whose inventive force has weakened since the retirement of Paul Scholes. Links to Liverpool have perhaps muted the excitement of United fans, but Young is likely to prove the doubters wrong in no time.
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