Ashley Young might be one of Manchester United’s most experienced players, but as of late the winger-turned-fullback’s presence on the pitch has proven to be more of an inconvenience than a benefit.
Young joined United from Aston Villa for an undisclosed fee in 2011. Since then, he has added Premier League, Community Shield, FA Cup, Carabao Cup and Europa League wins to his resume. Young committed to another season under manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, having signed a 12-month contract extension in February. For at least the next year, it appears fans will have to angrily sit through several matches in which Young fails to capitalize on a single set piece.
Young’s crossing also attracts deserved criticism, and serious concerns about whether the Englishman rightfully belongs on the first-team squad past the summer are justified. Because of Luke Shaw’s second leg suspension, Young was assigned left-back responsibilities for United’s Champions League second leg against Barcelona on Tuesday. It was a night to forget for the skipper, who failed to find a teammate with any of his 11 crosses during the match.
Tonight, Ashley Young lost possession a total of 32 times and attempted 11 crosses with 0 meeting their target. No player on the pitch lost possession more or had a worse crossing rate than him. pic.twitter.com/hOrObBQ3J3— UtdArena. (@utdarena) April 10, 2019
As far as individual performances go, Young’s against Ernesto Valverde’s men in the first leg of the Champions League quarter-final contest for the Red Devils might have been one of the worst seen in the tournament. He registered 73.3% passing accuracy when Lionel Messi and company visited Old Trafford on April 10. The 33 year-old won zero of his aerial duels and once again, managed to complete zero crosses.
Young’s versatility is valued and he’s normally satisfactory against weaker Premier League sides. However, putting him up against Messi or any of Barcelona’s revered attacking unit exposed his technical defects that have been ignored for far too long.
There’s no denying he’s a hard-working athlete who always delivers to his manager’s demands without pushback, and he would surely be tough to replace. However, the forthcoming summer transfer window would be the ideal moment for Manchester United to search for Young’s replacement as Diogo Dalot doesn’t appear to have won his manager’s trust to start every match. The Portuguese is only 20 and may not quite be ready to step in to the right-back role. Dalot arrived to Old Trafford from Porto on a £19m fee last summer and he is very much one for the future, and he offers more of an attacking threat than Young should he be given the chance to consistently start.
If United are looking to bring some stability to the defense, perhaps making a bid for the talents of Crystal Palace defender Aaron Wan-Bissaka should be at the top of Ed Woodward’s and Solskjaer’s priorities. At 21 years old, the Englishman would be a worthy investment for United. Regarded as one of the most desired right-backs in the Premier League, Wan-Bissaka has been vital for Roy Hodgson side’s in their domestic survival due to his proficiency in defending.
Forbes values Wan-Bissaka at £40 million, and note that Chelsea are also keen on poaching the rising star from Selhurst Park. The one caveat about his arrival would be adding to the lack of experience in the back. Wan-Bissaka could easily develop his career at Old Trafford and provide the Red Devils long-term success; however, does United’s rebuilding period come at the expense of signing players who already possess the experience to play against Europe’s elite? Something tells me he could manage at least one more cross than Young’s last two European performances, however.
Ashley Young’s form as of late does not supersede his overall contribution to the club he’s called home for the last eight years. Nevertheless, it shouldn't go unnoticed that he’s been a contributing factor to United’s dip in efficiency over the last several matches. Despite whatever Ashley Young fans are treated to each game, it certainly does not warrant the vile mistreatment supporters have directed at him as of late. To echo the club’s statement, racial abuse has no place in this storied club or society in general.