This article is part of Football FanCast’s Opinion series, which provides analysis, insight and opinion on any issue within the beautiful game, from Paul Pogba’s haircuts to League Two relegation battles…
When you get booed by your own team’s fans, there is definitely a sense of inevitability about where your career is about to end up. Ashley Young suffered the ignominy of such a response in the club’s pre-season clash against Inter earlier this summer, and some of his below-par displays last season certainly didn’t endear him to the Manchester United faithful.
Indeed, following his arrival as a first-half substitute against Crystal Palace last weekend, the big talking point was of him getting taken to the cleaners by wing wizard Wilfried Zaha. The viral clip prompted great ridicule of Young’s defensive abilities, but the biggest statement came from Eagles ace Andros Townsend.
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The 28-year-old slammed his own club’s Twitter account for rubbing salt into the wounds, and pointed out how Young actually recovered from Zaha’s skilful dribble to block the cross.
But such is the narrative these days, most will simply remember the game for Zaha putting Young on his backside. It will perhaps slip the mind that despite being on the pitch for less than an hour, the make-shift full-back registered five key passes for United – the highest of any of his teammates.
Indeed, following an injury to Luke Shaw, the veteran ace could feature far more prominently over the coming weeks, whether United fans like it or not. The 34-year-old has never complained about being stuck in a position that is still essentially alien to him, and simply gone about the job with little fuss.
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If there is a serious problem of him playing at full-back, then the anger should be directed towards the manager and the club’s hierarchy for failing to sign adequate cover, not at Young himself.
But be that as it may, Shaw’s lay-off gives the former Aston Villa star a chance to well and truly silence the doubters. If he can help solidify United’s new-look back-four, and provide some throwback pinpoint crosses into the box, then he could very well have the last laugh. And wouldn’t that just be fitting.