Ashley Young – Good signing or not?

by Sam Peoples

Ashley Young looks to be on the verge of signing for Manchester United after completing a medical yesterday ahead of a move from Aston Villa in a deal believed to be worth around the £16 million mark. In much the same fashion as the Antonio Valencia deal, fans find themselves very split as to whether Ashley Young will be a good signing for United considering the necessity for a central midfield signing but we all know how the signing of Tony turned out, so the optimistic ones of us can see just how promising this signing of Ashley Young could really be.

The main outcries will point towards the fact that in the winger department, United were not lacking last season. Nani gave his best return in a United shirt that left him atop the Premier League assist chart with 18, Valencia looked every part a better player after his return from a horrific ankle break in November, Park Ji Sung put in those relentless performances that earn him such respect and Ryan Giggs had one of his best seasons in recent times as he turned back the years to play an integral role in the attacking play of United when he could. So why would SAF possibly think of buying another winger? Simple. Ashley Young is not simply a winger.

Ashley Young vs Blackburn, 2010
Ashley Young vs Arsenal, 2010

As is obvious from these chalkboards, Ashley Young is an extremely dynamic attacking player. If SAF wanted him to play as a typical wide an like he did against Arsenal, he showed that he has the discipline and ability to hold wide and help his team. On the other hand, if SAF wanted him to play a more central role then as he showed in both fixtures against Blackburn this season, he has no problem playing in the middle of the park. For me, his dynamic game is his greatest strength and I am pretty sure SAF saw it the same way. If there is one thing SAF loves it is versatility within a player (take a look at the other summer signing in Phil Jones to see another prime example) as it is a great way to help build strength and depth within a squad, so Young ticks the box in that respect. You also don’t have to look very far to see why SAF admired the English winger and decided to bring him to Old Trafford.

Considering he plied his trade at Aston Villa over the past few seasons, a very mid table team, he boasts an excellent record. Since the start of the 2006/07 season, only Cesc Fabregas (60) has made more Premier League assists than Ashley Young (44). For SAF to bring in such a fantastic chance creator is exactly what United have been craving. Sure, Ashley Young is not the deep lying central playmaker that we have all been craving but he really does bring a completely new option to United. No longer do we have to be dependent on the creativity of Wayne Rooney to get an attack going with a pass and no longer do we have to see Nani take a shot on from outside the box because there is nothing else on. You also don’t have to look far to see that he can really  bring a lot more than just assists to United:

Premier League 2010/2011

Ashley Young
Games: 34
Goals: 7
Assists: 10
Chances Created: 78

Games: 33
Goals: 9
Assists: 14
Chances Created: 78

Source: Sky Sports News

Ashley Young created the same amount of chances as Nani did and whilst he had less return in the goals and assists department, the consistency in his game is something that I admire. Since the 2006/07 season, Sylvain Distin is the only outfield player to have played more PL minutes than Ashley Young who has played 15,622 minutes (Opta). In the same time frame, Young has managed to secure 60 assists and 38 goals. Nobody can sniff at statistics like this, it would be stupid to ignore it. Haters can complain that the price is inflated at £16 million but so fucking what? That is the market nowadays and there is nothing that anybody can do about it. Since the influx of foreign investment drove budgets skywards every team has been affected and that is the way it is going to stay, so stop moaning about it.

The last major aspect of Ashley Young‘s game that I think is a necessary addition to United is his ability with a set-piece. Ever since Ronaldo left (note: I am not saying he is a replacement of this quality), United have missed having someone there to take all the set-pieces. I am pig sick of seeing Nani step up to take a corner, only for it to hit the first man. We have one of the best centre-backs on the planet in Nemanja Vidic and if we can get consistent deliveries into the box, United can once again become a dangerous team from a corner, something I really miss. As well as corners, Young has been the primary free kick taker for Aston Villa for a while now and I have craved a free kick taker ever since Ronaldo departed. I can’t remember the last time United scored a free-kick if I look past Rooney’s excellent example against West Ham. Even if Young can knock in a couple of free kicks in the season, that can make a major difference, just as long as someone standing over the ball is someone that the goalkeeper fears could actually score. I think every time Nani steps up to take a free kick, the goalkeeper is just chuckling to himself because he knows that it poses no danger.

So, for me, Ashley Young is a great signing. It wasn’t the central midfielder signing I wanted but it gives United another attacking option on the bench and everyone knows that when it comes to crunch time in the season, squad depth is just as important as individual calibre. Will Young give a return in his first season? In all likeliness it can definitely happen. He won’t need any settling time coming off the back of 5 seasons with Villa and will be looking to step up his game as he moves into the big time. He knows the pressure he is under and I am confident he can deliver. Hopefully he will turn out to be just as much of a hit as Antonio Valencia. Welcome to the squad Young.


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