Ashley Young left Manchester United for Inter Milan on Friday after speculation about him signing for the club rumbled on over the past week. The 34-year-old could have remained at United for the remainder of the season, signing a pre-contract agreement with a foreign club or taking pot luck on his career in the summer. However, he chose to leave with immediate effect with reports of a £1.3 million fee being involved.
The winger turned fullback signed for United in the summer of 2011 arriving from Aston Villa for a fee in the region of £17 million. It may not have been the best signing the club could have made under Sir Alex Ferguson, who was coming to the end of his reign as United manager, but in terms of what he offered the club, at that time, he was a good signing. He was no Cristiano Ronaldo, that was obvious.
On signing, Young, who was 25 at the time stated that he could not turn down the opportunity to play for United, who at the time had won their nineteenth league title, the twelfth Premier League title, knocking Liverpool off their perch. He said it was a chance to play for the club who were seeking to win their twentieth league title, a feat the club achieved during the 2012/13 season, saying goodbye to Ferguson also. Young said:
“The opportunity to come to play for one of the biggest clubs in the world is one I couldn’t turn down. It is a chance to hopefully become part of history by helping them to win their 20th title.”
Of course, United had heartbreak in the 2011/12 season after taking rivals Manchester City to the final day of the season and a very late goal by Sergio Aguero stopped them retaining the Premier League title seeing the noisy neighbours lift it instead. It was something that inspired United to take the bull by the horns and ensure their twentieth title came the following season, which also paved the way for life after Ferguson, which has not been easy, to say the least.
Young will be remembered for many things as a player. The first will be his brace in the favour 8-2 victory over Arsenal, finishing on eight goals in total that season, his best goalscoring season for the club – he had scored nine goals in all competitions for the previous four season’s at Villa, scoring 15 in one season whilst playing for Watford. It is safe to say that after Ferguson, it was never the same for United.
Saying that though, Young, who helped lift the Premier League title at the end of the 2012/13 season, won his first trophy for the club on his full debut, the FA Community Shield after being 2-0 down at half time against City, winning 3-2. Young also helped the club to win the Emirates FA Cup at the end of the 2015/16 season, the first major honour post-Ferguson, and both the EFL Cup and the UEFA Europa League during the 2016/17 season.
The player saw many management changes from Ferguson leaving, David Moyes coming and going in the same season, Louis van Gaal lasting two years and winning the first major honour post-Ferguson, Jose Mourinho coming and lasting shy of two-and-a-half years, winning two major honours, then the club moving on to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, a player who learned from Ferguson, both as a player and a reserve team coach.
It was safe to say that United’s hunger to achieve started to fizzle away post-Ferguson and part of that was because of an ageing squad, clueless owners and an executive vice-chairman who knew how to bring the money in but had a notion to keep hold of it rather than spend it on players the club needed to continue to drive the club forward. Under Solskjaer, despite him playing 43 times, he was the past rather than the future.
During his time at United, Young managed to play his way into the England squad for the FIFA World Cup in the summer of 2018 despite playing for the country once between 2014 and 2017, playing five out of the seven games in the finals which saw England finish in fourth place after a 2-0 defeat to Belgium in the third place playoff of the competition. It was a good feat for Young to earn his place in the squad for the competition after a good season under his belt.
Young will now play for the remainder of the season for his fourth club of his career, Inter Milan, meeting former teammates Romelu Lukaku who was sold to the Italian club in the summer and Alexis Sanchez, who was loaned to the club for the 2019/20 season, although at this current time he is injured. He may also come against some former teammates; Chris Smalling, on loan at AS Roma, Matteo Darmian, who was sold to Parma.
The 34-year-old may not be remembered for greatness at, but after 261 appearances and scoring 19 goals. His final match came against Wolverhampton Wanderers at the Molineux a 0-0 draw in the third round of the Emirates FA Cup, which United won the replay during the past week at Old Trafford, winning 1-0 with his final goal coming in the 4-0 victory over AZ Alkmaar in the UEFA Europa League back in December 2019. His passion, leadership, experience, desire and determination will also be remembered as the club moves forward into a new era.