Reports of Danny Rose being ‘infuriated’ by Mauricio Pochettino’s decision to leave him out of the matchday squad that lost 2-0 to Arsenal on Saturday will only intensify speculation of Manchester United moving for Tottenham’s allegedly livid left-back in January.
But Jose Mourinho – and perhaps more significantly, Ed Woodward – will question the need to thrash out a mid-season deal with arguably the Premier League’s most prickly and toughest negotiator in Daniel Levy when his No.3 incumbent is having such a significant impact on his side’s successes.
Indeed, Paul Pogba grabbed the headlines for a controlling central midfield display as a Manchester United side clearly placing greater emphasis on attack than in recent weeks carved open Rafa Benitez’s Newcastle outfit on Saturday, notching up a 4-1 Old Trafford win as the visitors’ resilience inevitably waned.
Scratch a little deeper than the narrative of United’s club-record signing producing a positive performance though, and the real star of the show was a player some were surprised to see survive the summer transfer window and certainly doesn’t have a global legion of followers on social media like his French team-mate – Ashley Young.
The veteran wide man may have reached the tail-end of his career at the age of 32 and missed out on many of his best years to injury, but the transition into a full-back has given him a new lease of life, to the extent that Gareth Southgate handed Young his first England appearance in four years earlier this month.
Saturday’s performance was just one of many impressive displays Young has put in this season, but makes a strong case for being the best of the bunch.
The assist for Chris Smalling’s header epitomised perfectly what he offers this side; the former Aston Villa man is still one of the best crossers in the league on his right foot, and those wicked balls cutting inside from deep are a potent weapon for the tallest team in the Premier League after West Brom.
Young’s attacking contributions didn’t stop there; he produced two more successful crosses into the box and two more created chances, while completing one dribble and having the most touches of any United player – you’ll struggle to a find greater offensive impact from a full-back in the Premier League last weekend.
One area where Young would naturally struggle compared to Rose, in theory, is defensively, purely due to their polarising experience as part of the backline. Once again though, although Newcastle aren’t the most threatening of teams, the converted winger certainly didn’t let himself down on Saturday – in fact, he ranked first out of both teams for tackles and interceptions.
Of course, Rose is the more proven left-back and the more sensible option long-term. But the Tottenham man comes with his weaknesses too, particularly injuries, and any January deal between divisional rivals is always somewhat problematic.
Young has proved, at the very least, that he can hold down the role until the end of the season – which should spare funds for United to spend big on a more offensive target in January, someone who can truly help them gain ground on runaway pace setters Manchester City.