Ashley Young has had to endure a rocky time at Manchester United since his transfer from Aston Villa in 2011. At the time when he first signed I was pleasantly optimistic, as I’m sure many people were. While in an Aston Villa kit Young had proved himself to be a creative and dynamic midfield presence, and there was no reason why that wouldn’t translate into success at Manchester United. Truth be told, he enjoyed a reasonable start to life at Manchester United under Sir Alex Ferguson, and he scored a reasonable tally of eight goals in his first season of play. After that, however, things went downhill.
In the 2012-2013 season Young didn’t score a single goal through 23 appearances and under David Moyes in the 2013-2014 season he only managed marginally better with three goals in thirty appearances. Certainly goals aren’t everything, especially for a midfield player, but during that two season span, Young’s form was nothing short of dreadful. He became labeled as overrated, unnecessary, and even a cheat. Brandished as a diver, the former Aston Villa man was ridiculed and criticised endlessly.
When Louis van Gaal took over this past summer, quite frankly I expected nothing more than Ashley Young to be shown the door. Nothing in Young’s past indicated that a return to form would be likely. That’s why it was so strange to see United’s number 18 coming into form from the start of the season. Deployed as a left wing-back in van Gaal’s 3-5-2 formation that was favoured for much of the season, Young was charging down the left hand side of the pitch in a way that was reminiscent of his Aston Villa self in which Sir Alex saw a great deal of potential. Gradually Young has secured a spot for himself in the Red Devils’ starting eleven, and little by little he has earned back respect.
Despite having yet to score this season Young has had a tangible effect on many of the games he has played. This was nowhere more clearly shown than in Monday’s game against Preston. Young made his return off the bench after being sidelined for a couple weeks from an injury sustained against Cambridge, joining a United team that was down by a goal and in desperate need of a lift. His impact was almost immediate. Just minutes after coming on, Young made the pass that lead to Herrera’s goal to bring the match level. From there United went on to win 3-1 and advance to the sixth round of the FA Cup.
Certainly Young’s substitution for Falcao was a key event in turning around the match against Preston in United’s favor. For a player who has been much maligned for the past few years, it has been quite refreshing to see resurgence in his form. Perhaps it’s time to start giving Ashley Young a little respect. If he continues in his current vein of form, then certainly Young is deserving of some plaudits for his contribution to Manchester United’s relative success this season.