First Team News

Ashley Young: What Went Wrong?

In the summer of 2011, Sir Alex Ferguson paid Aston Villa a reported £17 million in return for the services of Ashley Young.

But despite a promising start to his United career, Young has struggled to make a desirable impact at Old Trafford.

Now, after a horrendous 2012/13 season, this article looks at what exactly went wrong for the 28-year-old.

Watford and Aston Villa Days

Young joined Watford’s youth academy at the age of 10. But when he was 15, the Englishman was released by the club for being too slight.

Instead of looking for another job, Young continued to train at the club three times a week and within a year, earned his first professional contract.

He eventually led Watford to top-flight football, scoring 15 times during the club’s promotion campaign.

In the Yellow Army’s 2006/07 Premier League term, Young drew many plaudits for his enthralling displays and following is what David Pleat of the Guardian had to say about the winger.

“Pace, awareness and the ability to glide past opponents give this 20-year-old forward the potential to make it in the Premiership, with or without his current club.”

“Young, a very mobile player, causes defenders problems by drifting from one side of the pitch to the other…

“An outstanding feature is his decision-making. A lot of players at his age show great flashes of ability but then pick the wrong option. Young has the gift of making the right decisions and anticipates situations very well.

“…I noticed how hard he worked, not just in going from side to side to make space for himself but in his determination to close down defenders and be the first line of defence. Young is particularly adept at making it difficult for opposition defenders to come out with the ball. That work rate is a factor upon which scouts will look favourably.”

Young’s performances were such that he was even linked with a move to Arsenal just a few months into the season, with Arsene Wenger labelling him as an “interesting” prospect, albeit rejecting the transfer claims.

Nonetheless, in the winter transfer window of 2007, Aston Villa came calling with a bid of £8m (plus add-ons).

“He has got enormous potential and I think he will fulfil that,” said then Villa manager Martin O’Neill after the transfer was completed.

“Ashley is a really talented player. I have seen a lot of him and I am going to back my judgement.

“I think Ashley is worth the transfer fee. He might even be a bargain.”

Yes, Young did turn out to be a bargain buy.

During his four-and-a-half year stint at the Villa Park, he was nominated to the PFA Team of the Year twice, won the PFA Player of the Month award thrice and was voted the PFA Young Player of the Year in 2009.

In the 2007/08 season, Young grabbed 17 assists, second only to Arsenal’s Cesc Fabregas, and in the next season, his performance in Villa’s 3-2 win over Everton at the Goodison Park led to O’Niell comparing the Englishman to Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi.

“I think Ashley’s a world-class performer, I really do,” said O’Neill. “I don’t use [those words] too often but he’s absolutely class. And he’s far from reached his peak. If you look at other top quality players who are 22 or 23 and who are absolutely brilliant … you look at people like Ronaldo and Messi and ask how they can improve, but they do, they just get better.”

With his contract running down and stock rising with every passing day, many European powerhouses such as United, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich showed interest in signing Young in the summer of 2011.

As it stands, the Red Devils captured the signature of the England international.

Euro 2012 Catastrophe

Young’s initial season at United wasn’t that bad and he ended it with strong performances against Swansea City and Sunderland.

However, a horrendous Euro 2012 shattered the lad’s confidence.

Coming into the tournament as one of England’s most important players, Young became the scapegoat for the Three Lions’ mediocre campaign.

Subject to racial abuse after missing the crucial penalty against Italy in the quarter-final, it’s safe to say Young has never been able to recover from the trauma of his flop show at the Euros.

The pressure on England internationals to flourish at the elite tournaments is humungous. After David Beckham was sent off against Argentina at France ’98, the United legend was vilified.

Via Sports Jrank:

“Beckham’s 1998 World Cup experience became a turning point in his career. In the match against Columbia Beckham scored a spectacular game-winning free kick. However, he went from national hero to national villain in a heartbeat when, in the next match against Argentina, he was given a red card (which means expulsion from the game) for kicking Argentina’s Diego Simeone just minutes into the second half with the score tied 2-2.

The Daily Mirror’s headline read “10 Heroic Lions, One Stupid Boy,” and the Daily Star’s banner read “What an Idiot.” Beckham was hung in effigy outside a London pub, and a Baptist church message board read “God Forgives Even David Beckham.” He received death threats and was continually booed the following season each time he touched the ball.”

If you stutter at the big stage, the entire country goes against you. That’s literally a tradition in England.

Young was already getting a lot of slack from the fans and press because of his dives against QPR and Aston Villa during the business end of 2011/12 season, so his sluggish outputs at the Euros only made it worse for the player.

And this affected his club form as unlike the South Americans, England players such as Young can’t avoid the backlash of their fans since most play club football in the Premier League.

2012/13 Season With United

Ashley Young, Manchester UnitedYoung has never been known for his physicality, thus, he has been compelled to centre his game on his other playing strengths, which according to his profile at EPSN Soccernet are, pace, dribbling ability and crossing.

“I’m 11 stone now and there was always times when people said about my height and my weight – he’s too slight, he’ll never make it,” said Young when asked about Watford’s reason to release him when he was 15.

“I know that I’m not going to be the biggest and be able to push people and block them off, but I’ll be able to use my feet.

“It was my footballing brain and my feet that got me through it.

“Even now, I’m not the biggest and I’ve got to think of different ways to beat the defender but I’ve always thought differently.”

Young’s problem last term is highlighted in his own quotes.

He simply couldn’t think of “different ways” to torment the defenders and produce attacking impetus. He became one dimensional, always cutting inside on his stronger foot to shoot or cross.

Young averaged only 0.5 dribbles per-game last term, an atrocious statistic for any winger. His crossing also looked wayward, while his shooting signified a lack of confidence.

Comparing his stats of the 2012/13 season with that of his final season at Villa, one can notice Young’s decline.

Season Accurate Crosses p/g Shots p/g Key Passes p/g Goals Assists
2010/11 2.2 2.4 2.3 7 10
2012/13 1.2 1.4 1.8 0 3

Injuries played their own part.

In September 2012 Young suffered a knee injury, in January he left Old Trafford on crutches after playing Liverpool and in April an ankle injury abruptly ended his season.

In all, Young completed just nine Premier League games last term.

Hope for Change?

Moyes might be fancying the former Villain due to his experience and that the player is a performer, but the problem with Young is a lack of confidence and self esteem.

If Alex Ferguson failed to motive and uplift Young, it’s hard to see Moyes achieving success in the same area.

Poor performances such as the Manchester City display this season are just not good enough for a squad player at Manchester United.

What do you think about Ashley Young & will he come good at Manchester United? Comment in the section below.

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By Surya

Surya Solanki is a freelance football writer covering the Premier League and African football. Being an avid Manchester United supporter for the past ten years, something always motivated him to go beyond just being a spectator, and gradually he began blogging about his views. He is currently a Manchester United critic at and a correspondent for

14 replies on “Ashley Young: What Went Wrong?”

I Stated we should never have signed this joke of a player at the time we where linked waste of space no better than our reserve players £18mil like of course not

I don’t just no what’s wrong with Moyes,with using Young that completely out of form&Smaling as well,i wonder why he can not use Nani&send Fabio to right back.but,i believe,he must have learn from his mistake now.

I think moyes z a very bad & blind manager coz he can’t see that young & welbeck are useless, & my wish is to see young & welbeck to be injurd for 2 to 3 years & i’ll be very happy coy they are useles just the person who selects them to be in the starting 11.

Young is at best a Championship player, and only an average one at that, How he makes the Utd team is a mystery to me, let alone get a call up for England

Moyes needs to give Nani, Zaha & Kags their chance. Im sick of seeing Young on the team sheet. He has proved he’s not up to it time and time again. We don’t need him. If we get to keep Adnan, he plays in his position! Just cos he’s English? No-one’s arsed! Get rid Moyes!!!

Young’s career has been going backwards for the last 18 months. Injuries haven’t helped but he hasn’t shown any consistency when he has been playing.

His dancing and diving style out on the left wing has produced little end product. He has few options and is quite predictable.

Young’s days at United should be numbered. It’s wrong that he is starting games ahead of Nani, Kagawa and Januzaj.

Seems United have to get rid of the players that’s got the experience and years on their back and let the younglings get their chance.

Young? Only good for running and then diving in hopes for a penalty or freekick in a decent position.
Valencia? One-trick pony down on the right side, everyone knows his game and can in most cases be avoided.
Welbeck? He’s looked promising for a few seasons now, but is he improving for United? Seems he can in most cases only score for England -vs- crap teams.
Evra/Nani, crybabies that should act up and play onpar with their ability.

We have Kagawa who’s not too old and needs to be incorporated into the team and most of all the 3 musketeers Powell, Zaha and Januzaj has shown creativity, finesse and hunger.
Something we’ve been lacking for a year or two now.

Hell.. even Buttner tries to drive forward instead of the otherwise “grandmas passing backwards unless can we feed Rooney/van Persie with balls over the midfield because your midfield are limpdicks” 🙂

Young is crap n clueless welbeck is clueless smalling is shit dat guy doesn’t knw hw to defend n hw cn moyes be playing ferdinand in 6 games wen we ve evans n raphael is injured y is his brother nt playing rb y is nani kagawa nt starting wat is wrong wit moyes does he tink he is in everton trying to defend to the end man u wud ve had a better chance if our rite back ws able to attack very well cos kolarov is a shitty defender bt smalling decided to be crap moyes told them to go n defend the game only changed wen evra n rooney got mad so I will say young out welbeck 42 games 2 goals out smalling out n if dey dnt go out then it wud be moyes out

I don’t get the vitriol against Young. Sure, he hasn’t been the spark that we would have liked, but he defends well and works hard, unlike, say Kagawa. He’s a solid squad player who works hard for the team.

And against City, it’s not Young who was responsible for the goals given up. That would be Fellaini first and foremost, who was directly responsible for the crucial goals on both sides of halftime, not being even arsed enough to stay with his man. For the first, it was Valencia who didn’t follow his man, who ran 30 yards right by him.

Ashley Young is not the problem.

I don’t think it’s his complete fault that he fail to establish himself at united. With the pace and attacking position of evra, united no longer play with a left winger. The runs that Valencia made on the right is replicated by evra and not by our midfielder. And with cleverly or giggs behind a left side central mid and carrick sticking to the middle of the central mid, there isn’t much space to run or dribble, skills that young excels at. So his ability is limited by united style of play. The same reason can be applied to why nani can’t establish himself on the left. Ever since CR7 has left united our left side have been filled by makeshift central midfielder like clev or giggs or by young and currently our style of play need a creative force on the left to feed our striker and evra more so than a dribbling winger like young.

Since Keano was evicted from United we have never found a replacement. And we’re talking almost 10 years! Until we find a player with that combination of grit, pride, sometimes lunacy, skill and footballing brain, we’ll never have the foundation to build on. We can have all the dancers and pretty boys we want but until we get someone on the field to make them toe the line then we’ll continue to struggle with a cohesive midfield.

It’s not just Ashley I think. We have major issues with confidence atm imo. Our style of play have been learned inside out by the opponents and 4-4-1-1 should be axed. Since we weren’t able to add creativity to CM role I think we should adjust the formation into our strengths. We haev two options imo. 4-3-1-2 or fashionable 4-2-3-1.
In 4-3-1-2 the lineup would be
Rafael- Jones- Vidic- Evra
In 4-2-3-1
Why do I think this? We need all our creativity into the pitch. Now we seem too obvious.. Valencia makes one-eyed decisions where he runs up the line and crosses and we hope for the best. In the left flank Ashley have lost his self esteem and doesn’t challenge enough. And when he get’s to cross there is no one to end it since 4/5 his crosses flies by to row 75.

I wouldn’t blame the wingers though, not completely. Our midfield is still on crisis in form of straight on passes to Rooney or RVP. Tehre is no one to complete them -> Carrick is once more a year older and he doesn’t have the speed to challenge. His passes are world class yes, but in a running game he just doesn’t stand unless he takes another Yellow Card.

In CB position we have the same problem; Rio and Nemanja can stand their ground while in the box but one on one runs they lose, they are getting too old and slow with all do respect to them, both still are very good, but not anymore excellent.

So what would I do to the squad if this would be fantasy football and not real life:

To be sold:
Welbeck ( he had his chance, boy can’t find the net and he should be 20 goal striker)
Young (in all honesty, good squad rotation player, not to be astar in his late 20’s so he can go)
Evans ( on a good day he’s ok, on a bad day he isn’t even championship quality. I can’t understand what people sees in him)
Fabio? ( is he ever going to be even half as good as rafa?)
Cleverley? (squad rotation player, not going to be a star but if he’s happy as a rotation player, then we can keep him)
Anderson (lazy and non-creative. Lost his prospects due to some injuries but it would be the time to cut our losses)

Targets to buy
Di Maria (if we wan’t to play via wings then this is our guy, and he’s dropped in the ranks in Madrid so could even be available)
World class CB: some of the names have been running already in the speculation, is Garay world class? I don’t know. I would look at someone like Badstuber or Hummels. If I’d have to choose from those two i’d take Badstuber since Hummels is more of a motivation driven player.
CM, creative one on deeper role: To be honest there isn’t that many to fill the task in the world: Thiago or Cesc would have been great, but neither is available. I personally don’t think Herrera would have been the answer to our problems. Modric could be the answer but we cannot get both, Di Maria and Modric out from Madrid and furthermore there is also Coentrao in talks to get out from there.

All in all my opinion is to adjust our game into 4-2-3-1 and look to strenghten our defence in January. Then focus on midfield EARLY on summer in ways to see if Cesc, Modric or Goetze/Thiago are happy in their clubs or to be lured into our squad.

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