This article is part of Football FanCast’s In Numbers series, which takes a statistical look at performances, season-long form and reported transfer targets…
When Luke Shaw suffered an injury in late August, Ashley Young had the perfect chance to silence the doubters. The veteran ace has been the subject of intense criticism from Manchester United fans, and was even booed on the club’s pre-season tour earlier this summer.
Having covered at left-back over the past few weeks, Aaron Wan-Bissaka’s late setback meant Young scooted over to the right-hand side to face Arsenal on Monday night. Who was he coming up against? 18-year-old Bukayo Saka.
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To put things into context, when the United defender was making his professional debut for Watford on September 13 2003, Saka had just turned two years-old the week before. So if there ever was a game where the 34-year-old could deliver a reminder of the quality he still possesses, then coming up against the Gunners’ young charge would have been it. Instead, the former Aston Villa player was comprehensively schooled.
Right from the first minute of the game, Arsenal’s academy prospect imposed his game on the defender. A running theme over the course of the match was Saka backing into Young and receiving the ball, before fending off the Englishman with ease. On numerous occasions, the 18-year-old provided Unai Emery’s side with an out-ball, holding onto possession and using his body to help protect the ball – the United man could simply do nothing about it.
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In the end, the 34-year-old committed two fouls, and he picked up a yellow card four minutes before half-time. What Saka did perhaps more than anything however, was prove to be a real nuisance whenever Young had the ball. The teenager closed the passing lanes effectively, and when he saw an opportunity to press the right-back, he did so with pace and authority – it was therefore no surprise to see the Red Devils ace lose the ball 26 times (the highest of anyone on the pitch).
So whilst Young had a great opportunity to prove people wrong, his performance against the Gunners left a lot to be desired. When Shaw and Wan-Bissaka make their full recoveries, it would be no surprise to see the ageing veteran fade into the sunset at Old Trafford.