Manchester United’s dressing room would have been a lonely place for Ashley Young after Barcelona ran out 1-0 winners in the first leg of their quarter-final tie at Old Trafford. Despite Barcelona’s meagre winning margin, it was a night to forget for Young and quite possibly the worst performance of his United career so far.
The 33-year-old lost possession 30 times, which averages out to giving the ball away every three minutes. It’s quite amazing that the damage wasn’t far greater for the Red Devils given how careless Young was with possession and how clinical the Catalans normally are with any loose balls in the final third.
Manchester United were effectively playing with ten men when you take into account how ineffective Young was and if it wasn’t for a breakthrough performance from Scott Mctominay, Barcelona could have guaranteed themselves progression to the semifinals after just 90 minutes.
As it stands, a 1-0 deficit can be overcome and for all intents and purposes, the tie is still alive on paper. However, a quick scan of the Champions League outright odds will show that Barca are the favourites at 5/2, whereas United are at 33/1. The bookies have made their minds up after the first leg and it’s hard to argue with their assessment at this stage. Should United stand any chance of pulling off another European raid on foreign soil, Young will need to be left in Manchester.
🏴 Ashley Young stats from last night:— Oddschanger (@Oddschanger) April 11, 2019
😶 Possession lost: 30
❌ Successful crosses: 0/11
🎯 Pass accuracy: 73%
👊 Duels won: 60%
Manchester United’s captain was rated 4/10 last night 😳
Is it time for United to look for a new right back..? pic.twitter.com/0cpFP2FKEU
Furthermore, it’s quite possible to believe Manchester United will listen to offers for the 33-year-old in the summer despite agreeing on a new contract extension in February. With a year left on his deal, United could salvage some sort of fee for Young and bring his eight-year stay at Old Trafford to an end.
Ageing footballers playing in the best domestic competitions in Europe for the most prestigious clubs in the world roll the dice every time they take the field. They’re lauded as the consummate professionals when they can keep up with the pace of play until they aren’t, like Ashley Young is now finding out.
As cutthroat as it sounds, getting found out to the degree that Young was found out against Barcelona, can signal the end for a player even if they are a stalwart at a club, like Young certainly is. It may not be in the next game or the one after that, but make no mistake, the end will now be in sight.
That’s the nature of the game and further proof that all players have to be moved on at some stage. Just before Young signed in June of 2011, Gary Neville had retired midway through the 2010/2011 season after the right-back endured 45 minutes from hell against West Brom on New Year’s Day.
The former Manchester United right-back would come to terms with his reality whilst sitting on a toilet at the Hawthorns during halftime as Sir Alex Ferguson barked out instructions to his team on how to improve in the second half. It took just 25 minutes of the second half before the fourth official’s board flashed a red two and that was it, father time had finally caught up with Gary Neville.
Exciting times ahead for this club and I feel proud to continue to be a part of it. 👹🤘🏾 pic.twitter.com/Jya4UrYWis— Ashley Young (@youngy18) February 11, 2019
There’s reason to believe that father time was at Old Trafford during Young’s horror show.
How the 33-year-old will bow out now is up to him but you would hope he brings the curtain down with dignity and grace. It’s not easy for players to accept retirement and often it has to be a slow death as they soldier on regardless, defiant of the calls for them to go. As an ex-player, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will be able to relate to Young’s predicament and is the best man to throw a comforting arm around the right-back’s shoulder and let him know that he can’t stay young forever.