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Ashley Young 2.0: From inconsistent winger to reliable utility man

Young has changed his game, and revived his United and England career as a result.

Manchester United v FC Basel - UEFA Champions League Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

Ashley Young received his first England call up in several years this week, but he is not the same kind of player that once featured the Three Lions in the early 2010s.

Ashley Young has traded flash and skill for work ethic and it has paid dividends for him in a United career that very well could have ended in disappointment. His form had vanished, as well as any sort of impact he was having at the club, and it looked as though he had no place at Old Trafford anymore.

Enter Louis Van Gaal and an injury plagued 2014-15 team. Young earns a place as a fullback, an unfamiliar role, and performs surprisingly well. In big games too, notably in a 4-2 victory in the Manchester Derby that helped push United into a Champions League spot in the Premier League.

But what made him stand out after so long wasn’t what fans had remembered him for, what was expected of him when he came to Old Trafford.

Ashley Young wasn’t scoring screamers anymore, nor was he giving defenders the slip with his trickery. He was closing attackers down, delivering crosses, and utilizing his strength both on the ball and off. He was no longer predictable and cutting in on his right foot on every dribble.

Young’s adaptability should be applauded because he was willing to give up the style and flash that once made him a budding star in English football, and did it for the sake of his career as well as his club. He became the player his managers needed rather than trying to still be the player he thought he would be on a title crusading Ferguson side.