It’s been announced that Manchester United have agreed a fee and personal terms to sign Aston Villa winger Ashley Young for a estimated fee of around 15 million pounds. If your oblivious to the world of Twitter (and I’d recommend for your health you stay far away from it!) then this may have come as a surprise despite the heavy speculation of a possible transfer.
With two top class wingers in Antonio Valencia and Luis Nani , the big match player in Ji-Sung Park , the evergreen Ryan Giggs still going strong and with two starlets who are more than capable deputies to play on the wing in Tom Cleverley and Danny Welbeck it be hard to reason why we would need another winger, and a right-footed winger at that. However, when you look deeper into the surface it’s a very clever and astute signing. Heres some reason why:
1) Luis Nani hasn’t been as good on the left as he has been on the right: For two and a half seasons Luis Nani was the cause of much frustration among many reds, including myself. He obviously had bundles of potential, but at times he seemed too self-centered and everything he did on the field was for the benefit of himself and not the team. Something that the Portuguese winger echoed himself recently. However, since the turn of 2010 it’s fair to say Nani has been nothing else then sensational. Mainly because he’s been given more games on the right then he was earlier on in his United career. With Valencia out for majority of the season it was up to Nani to step up, and he did it emphatically. He was the top assist maker in the Premier League this season with 18 and he scored 9 goals himself. There was a period in the season where every United goal virtually involved the lad. Unfortunately the horror tackle from Jamie Carragher on Nani back in March has seemed to have dented the boy’s confidence and he hasn’t really been the same player since.
However, another reason I believe that Nani hasn’t been the same is that the week after Nani was carried off on a stretcher at Anfield, Antonio Valencia made his return from injury against Arsenal, and he has been a fixture on the right ever since leaving Nani pushed out onto the left where he has been very ineffective. On the right he is dangerous, explosive and a nightmare to defend against because he can either take his defender to the byline and cross the ball in, or he can cut inside an unleash an effort on goal.
On the left he is limited, frustrated and very predictable because of his reluctance to cross the ball in with his left foot, meaning he has to cut onto his right foot to shoot or cross. This signing doesn’t mean the end of Nani, but as a gauntlet thrown down to the lad to try and better himself even more and make the transition from on the verge of world class to world class.
2) Ashley Young is at his best on the left and is very versatile: One of the main complaints of this transfer from United fans is that he’s another right winger to add to the likes of Valencia, Nani, Park and Obertan. However, Young best form comes from when he is playing on the left. He will prove a valuable squad member as he can fill in the ‘hole’ where Rooney currently plays in, or if ever needed he can play on the right. However, for most of his United career Young should be playing on the left. Given time and space he will cut in and cross the ball or take a shot, however, unlike Nani he is more then willing to charge to the byline and whip the ball in with his left foot. Making him dangerous and unpredictable (sound familiar?). He also proved his worth in the ‘hole’ and if we are ever without Wayne Rooney for a prolonged spell (touchwood) then we have an more then able deputy and won’t have to change from the 4-4-1-1 formation which proved very effective in the final few months of the season.
3) He’ll add some more creativity and is a match-winner: Last season we seemed to be over reliant on Nani for a piece of magic in tight situations and when he was having an off day or wasn’t available the team suffered. As the season wore on the duty fell on Rooney to score or create a goal. In my opinion why we were so poor away from home in the Premiership is we lacked people who could change a game in a blink of an eye, at home with the backing of 70,000 + plus fans it was much different.
The main reason we were so successful and dangerous between 06-09 is because we had an abundance of match winners. Consider the 2008 double winning team, we had the likes of Ronaldo, Tevez, Rooney, Nani, Giggs and Scholes all able to win a match on their own. Last season we were much more workman like and had to grind out results on many occasions, something we achieved purely down to the character of the side. Players like Park and Fletcher rather sum up the United squad – effective rather electric – both have been brilliant for United but neither are likely to conjure something out of nothing.With Young in the ranks we have someone who can whip in a fantastic cross, score a goal and something we haven’t had since Ronaldo have the ability to take a deadly set piece.
4) Aging Park and Giggs: Despite very little evidence of it, Ryan Giggs no matter how much yoga sessions he takes: will eventually run out of legs. Last season towards the end of the season Giggs was used more in a central midfield position alongside Michael Carrick. A position where were more likely to see Ryan play in a lot more next season. Ji-Sung Park has turned 30 in the last few months, and with much of his game relying on heavy running and pressuring the opponents it could mean that our ultimate big game player could be used less and less in the coming season. Both Park and Giggs contract run up in a years time and while Gigg’s situation depends on his performances and his willingness to continue, Park on the other hand could be shown the door after what will have been seven years of fine service. With Ashley Young joining and Ravel Morrison coming up through the ranks this could be Park’s final season with the red devils.
5) Cleverley and Welbeck aren’t natural wingers: While the two starlets who were loaned out to Wigan and Sunderland respectively played the majority of their loan spell on the left wing it’s fair to say it wasn’t there natural position. Both did a very good job on the left wing, but Manchester United haven’t created a legacy of quick lighting wing play with players who could do a ‘job’ there. Speaking to a few Wigan fans a few weeks ago they also felt that Tom’s future in the game is in the center of the midfield rather than out hugging the touchlines. Danny Welbeck had an impressive loan spell at Sunderland, Danny was forced out left for most of the season as Darren Bent and Asamoah Gyan were ahead of him in the strikers department. When Bent left for Villa in the January transfer window Danny must have though he’d be given a chance down the center from now on, however, numerous injury problems limited his chances for the remainder of the season as Sunderland plummeted down the league table.
6) Young is approaching his prime and is relatively cheap: With his 26th birthday coming up next month Ashley is no longer classed as a youngster with potential. He’s reaching the prime of his career and with experienced heads like VDS, Neville and Scholes all having left the club he’s experience will be a welcomed addition to the squad. While English players are often very much over-hyped and overrated, the same can’t be said for Young. The winger won the PFA young player of the year back in 2009, but his progress has seemed to stall in the last couple of the seasons (remember this is the guy Martin O’Neil once described him of being at the level of Ronaldo and Messi!). Comparing his performances for Villa this season to his recent appearances for England seem to suggest that Young is desperate for a new challenge something he will get at United with Champions League football ahead for him next season. With a year left on his contract Ashley Young won’t be as expensive as someone like Alexis Sanchez who is unproven in the Premier League or as expensive as someone like Gareth Bale who is supposed to be the top target for many clubs around Europe. This means the signing of Young will leave some more cash for a top central midfielder that we all desire.
7) Advantage of playing with better players: When SAF signed Dwight Yorke he reckoned the striker would thrive under the platform and being among higher quality players. The same could be said for Young who in is 189 appearances for Villa he has scored 37 goals and made 57 assists. An impressive record for a winger, especially considering for the majority of his Villa career Young was trying to supplement the likes of Carew, Heskey and Agbonlahor. You would imagine he would have greater success playing with the likes of Rooney, Hernandez, Berbatov and Owen. Young managed 9 goals and 14 assists last season compare that to PFA Player Of The Year winner Gareth bale who managed 7 goals and a single assist last term. So stats-wise where signing no mug!
These are several reasons why I believe Ashley Young will prove a success at United and will soon endear himself to the Old Trafford faithful!
Read more of Ryan Donavan’s articles at Red Flag Flying High