It was all a bit tragic for Ashley Young. For years derided as not being good enough for Manchester United, suddenly the team regressed enough to find common ground with Young and suddenly he was good enough. He was one of the few triumphs of the José Mourinho reign. There was an Indian Summer type feel to Young’s Manchester United career when he started to make a go of things once more at United under Mourinho after years of every window destined to be the one in which he was sold.
But as quickly as Young was back in vogue, it was all over. The away leg with Barcelona will be remembered as the game in which Young officially ‘jumped the shark’ but the warning signs were long there. On that night in the Nou Camp, much as it had been for Paul Parker and Paul Ince in 1994, every inefficiency in Young’s game was put on display for the world to see, and it was all too much.
In some ways, Young should be commended. He managed to salvage his United career before the end, but at 34, he’s not good enough for Manchester United anymore. Odd that he wasn’t good enough at ages 27 to 32 either, but for a brief window in there, for some reason, he was indeed good enough. AB
Does any player in the current Manchester United squad embody the state of the club in recent years better than Ashley Young? An underwhelming attacking signing, who briefly surprised with his quality, before being exposed for what he was: a cut-price alternative to the top-class calibre of players for whose signatures United should have been competing. After his early disappointments, though, Young reinvented himself as a hard-working utility man.
It says much and more about the quality of United’s full-back play since Patrice Evra left that Young has been at various points both the club’s best left-back and best right-back, despite not even being a specialist defender. For the last couple of seasons though, Young’s deficiencies as a defender were grudgingly overlooked. After all, he was diligent, rarely injured, and if not necessarily assured, at least not calamitous. That changed at some point during this last season however.
In 2018-19, Young seemed to get old all at once. With his body betraying him, Young could longer use his work rate to make up for his positional errors. In the second half of the season, his crossing was consistently atrocious. A full-back who is both a liability on the defensive end and a non-factor in attack is not much value on the pitch at all. Young escaped much of the ire directed at other members of the team, despite being a senior player and effective team captain. Another season at this rate of decline though, and the fans are sure to turn on Young. He has been a reliable presence during a period of transition, but he’s no longer good enough to be a regular starter. BM