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Ashley Young can hold his head high based on what he achieved at Manchester United

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.

Looking at Manchester United’s defensive depth for the 2019/20 season

Manchester United did well during the summer transfer window, adding Aaron Wan-Bissaka, who signed from Crystal Palace and Harry Maguire, who arrived from Leicester City. It was a summer that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer needed to pay attention to the defence, which allowed more than 50 goals to be conceded in the Premier League along last season.

Solskjaer spent £125 million; £80 million for Maguire and an initial £45 million for Wan-Bissaka giving some much-needed defensive ability ahead of the 2019/20 season in which United would be tasked with chasing the likes of Manchester City, Liverpool, Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal, to regain a place in the top four of the league.

United finished sixth last season, five points adrift of a place in the top four, which could have been much different if United managed to beat both Huddersfield Town and Cardiff City at the end of the season. However, hindsight is only fantastic when you look back as if you change two factors, other factors may have had to change also.

Goalkeeper depth; Solskjaer does not need to worry in this area.

Solskjaer has three great first-team options in goal this season; David De Gea, Sergio Romero and Lee Grant. That will be the order of importance in the squad. The club also had the likes of Dean Henderson, Joel Pereira and Kieran O’Hara, who have all been loaned out to Sheffield United, Hearts of Midlothian and Burton Albion respectively.

De Gea will be the go-to guy to start the majority of matches, namely in the Premier League. As for the Carabao Cup, the UEFA Europa League and the Emirates FA Cup, it could well be Romero who features, as he did in the cup competitions last season, other than the UEFA Champions League, of course. Grant could be a shoo-in for matches in these competitions too.

It was hoped that Henderson could have been afforded time in the Premier League this season but with De Gea’s contract being extended by the extra year agreed to in 2015, it was unlikely that he would be the first option in the goalkeeping ranks, however, he will get that Premier League experience he craved for, which might do him some good.

Fullback depth; Solskjaer’s options are much improved this season.

Last season, United’s defence left a lot to be desired. First of all, in the fullback position, Jose Mourinho, who started the season as manager, then Solskjaer had Antonio Valencia, Ashley Young, Matteo Darmian, Luke Shaw, and Diogo Dalot to choose from in both the left-back and right-back positions. Not a lot of pace, or youth for that matter.

Valencia was on the sidelines for much of the season, leaving the other four to contend for places in the squad. Young was often criticised, as way Shaw. Dalot was too inexperienced, but gave his all and Darmian seldom played. This season though, after the departure of Valencia, Wan-Bissaka arrived and has improved the position greatly.

Both Wan-Bissaka and Shaw will face competition from Young and Dalot, who can both play on the left or the right. Darmian may still play a part despite his future up in the air, although his current contract will expire at the end of the season. The fullback role is looking good for the current season with youth coming through the ranks to add more competition.

Central defensive depth; the strongest defence in six years?

Solskjaer has Victor Lindelof, Eric Bailly, Phil Jones, Harry Maguire, Chris Smalling, Marcos Rojo and Axel Tuanzebe in his ranks for the current season. There was the rumour of Rojo likely to depart before the closure of the European transfer window at the start of September, but it is just rumour right now. With seven players, there is some depth in this area.

Bailly is injured until the Christmas period, meaning Solskjaer has six players contesting two positions in the squad. Lindelof and Maguire secured the central defensive area in the 4-0 victory over Chelsea at Old Trafford last weekend and will be expected to resume their positions against Wolverhampton Wanderers on Monday evening.

In case of injury to either Lindelof or Maguire, or the need for rotation, Tuanzebe will be a great option for Solskjaer as he did well during pre-season and learned some valuable things on loan with Aston Villa last season. The likes of Jones and Smalling could also be considered. Rojo not so much, based on pre-season appearances.

The depth of this squad is pretty good, despite the moaning for central midfield signings during the summer transfer window. Solskjaer will have had targets and if it was not possible to sign them, panic buying was just going to create more problems in the future with many players on high wages and unable to be moved on; Alexis Sanchez for instance.

United have many options in different areas; a minimum of three players, counting those already in the first team this season, which are players who have already made their debuts for the club in the recent years. In some positions, United has four sometimes five options, based on my opinion on where they would be able to play in the 4-2-3-1 formation.

This is the formation which Solskjaer has used more often than not, and a formation which will get the best out of the attacking players, using their hunger, determination and more importantly, their pace to launch attacking and counter-attacking plays during matches. Solskjaer’s identity seems to be young, courage and success.

Above, you can see the 4-2-3-1 formation, keeping an eye on the defence where there is a minimum of three players for each position, listed in order of importance to the squad. At fullback, both Wan-Bissaka and Shaw seem to be safe, although the emergence of Dalot could change that, more for Shaw, if he does not improve as he should have.

In the centre of defence, Lindelof and Maguire are certain to start more matches together, fitness and injury aside, but in that instance, there is some depth which could help get United through a difficult time. Tuanzebe, at least for me, is trusted more than the likes of Jones and Smalling; Bailly is at the bottom because of injury at the present time.

If the Ivorian improves his game, he could add more competition for either centre-back, which in turn will inspire players to perform to the best of their ability in order to keep their place. Competition is the best thing to bring the best out of players. This defence could achieve a lot; first of all to ensure they concede fewer than 54 goals this season.

The candidates for the Manchester United captaincy ahead of the 2019/20 season

Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has a big decision to make ahead of the new Premier League season which starts in just over a fortnight with United hosting Chelsea at Old Trafford on Sunday 11 August 2019. The decision is who will captain the squad this season. Antonio Valencia, the previous club captain left the club this summer.

There are a number of options for Solskjaer to choose from which range from goalkeeper David De Gea, fullback Ashley Young, central defender Victor Lindelof to midfielder Paul Pogba. There are other players, who could be a sort of wild card option along with any further new signing Solskjaer will make before the transfer window closed in two weeks time.

Here are reasons for (and against) players becoming the captain for the forthcoming season.

David De Gea

The Spanish number one could well be the best option for the captaincy role at the club. It could give him the challenge he needs to commit his future to the club for the rest of the best days of his career. De Gea had his contract extended for another year based on the clause in the contract he signed when he nearly left the club in the summer of 2015. There have been many reports of the goalkeeper signing a new contract this summer but so far, nothing has become official.

Whilst De Gea could make a good captain, he should commit to the club first. Solskjaer will rate him as a leader and recently he has suggested that he could step up and become a leader in the team, which has been lacking one for some time now. De Gea as the captain could be a good move for Solskjaer and the player himself as he will have committed to the club that he so wants to be a part of. He is one of the longestserving players at the club and will be respected like any other long-serving player.

Victor Lindelof

The Swedish central defender had a great season last season and was the first name on the team sheet as far as central defenders go. Finding him a partner which can not only bring the best out of the pair is what Solskjaer needs to do this summer. Some supporters have suggested that Lindelof deserves to be the captain next season. For me, he is a contender but needs a bit more time at the club in order to captain the team. So far so good though. In the future, the Swede could well be one of the best defenders to play for the club.

Lindelof could well be that voice in the defence that is needed in order to push his defensive partner, and those ahead of him in midfield and further forward but for me, there are players who seem to be more respected in the team based on the fact they have been there the longest. Solskjaer will not want to upset the dynamic of the team which giving the captains armband to an effectively new player in the team could cause. Players such as De Gea, Young and others might be more respected by the majority of the squad but there is not reason Lindelof could not be a voice within the squad, leading from the back.

Ashley Young

The 34-year-old seems the most likely player to be named the club captain this summer, whether people agree with it or not. Young is the joint second longest-serving player at the club right now, behind Chris Smalling arriving at the same time as Phil Jones. Young is respected by his teammates, despite his form taking a massive dip over the last year. Young could be the club captain in a similar fashion as Valencia last season, playing a small part on the pitch – a captain does not need to play.

Young has been a great player for United, albeit as a winger rather than a fullback but over the past few seasons, he has offered something that was lacking in the squad. With Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Luke Shaw likely to occupy the fullback roles and Diogo Dalot likely to rival the former, Young might have to settle for a bit-part role as a fullback this season, which may not be good for him but in terms of competition, it could be the best option for United right now. Like Valencia, he could be a good captain off the pitch with a vice-captain who plays more doing the on-pitch duty.

Paul Pogba

Many supporters would like to see the Frenchman as the captain of this club. However, first of all, something needs to be established. Does Pogba need a new challenge away from United or is he fully enlisted in the cause for the club? Three years ago, he came back to the club because he had unfinished business. Does he want to change that or does he still want to have unfinished business at United? Pogba will need to think about a few things before accepting the armband, if it is offered to him.

Over the past few seasons, Pogba has emerged as a player with the ability but seems to have played only when Paul Pogba wanted to. In order to captain this team, that needs to stop right there and the hunger, thirst and determination to succeed need to become a major factor in his game. Pogba has everything in his locker to be the leader in this team but if he does not have the desire to lead the team, this would not be the right move for Solskjaer or the player.

Other candidates

I have been keeping an eye on social media for comments from supporters who think other players should be considered for the captains role in the team. Names mentioned are Marcus Rashford, Chris Smalling, Nemanja Matic and even Anthony Martial. I am surprised by some names which have been mentioned. Smalling is the most senior player at the club this summer but that does not mean he should be named the club captain. Right now, the best thing he can do is win his place in the team back, which might be made more difficult should a new defender arrive.

Rashford is an honest player to be named but this season is going to be one for him to show his best at the club. He is likely to be the main striker in the team and he will need to knuckle down and bring the goals the club desperately needs to get back on the road to success. Naming him the captain will only complicate matters and his has his entire future ahead of him, if this is something he wants to achieve in the future. Matic seems to be out of form and will be in the same predicament as Young, not playing much so that option is out of the window too.

When Martial was mentioned, despite his honest talent, I did laugh. So many supporters seem to overrate him massively. He has been poor for the last few seasons and has hardly looked happy at the club. He signed a new long-term contract but that does not mean he has made it. In a few years, if he starts to do what he talent suggests he can do, there is no reason why he cannot be a contender for the captaincy but for the immediate future, the best thing the Frenchman can do is put his head down, listen to the advice that he has been given and work towards becoming that player his talent could help make him.

A new signing?

United have been strongly linked with the likes of Bruno Fernandes, an attack minded midfielder from Sporting in Portugal also the captain of his team. Whilst it is not certain that United will sign him; reports seem to contradict with some suggesting that there is interest and others suggesting that there isn’t. However, for a new player to come into the team and be given the captains armband might not be the best option.

The same could be said for Harry Maguire, which currently plays for Leicester City, although there is a belief that his time at the club could be all but over with United waiting in the wings. I don’t think allowing a new player to become the captain just after they have signed is the best thing for the squad dynamic. However, like with Lindelof and others, being a vocal player in terms of leadership will not be a bad thing in the team.

Club loyalty is still alive and well within the Manchester United squad

When a club endures a change in manager, it also can endure a change in playing style philosophy. With a change in that philosophy can come a change in which players fit in with the club, and which ones don’t, which can leave these players facing a decision.

The question of whether or not to stay and take a cut in either salary or playtime, or to leave and go for these things can become a tough one when you come to love the club you already play for. Manchester United is also one of those clubs that traditionally has drawn in that loyalty from its players throughout history.

Things can get even more confusing for players when there are three changes in the permanent manager position. Many players have seemed to fall between the cracks of the United squad, potentially missing out on significant playtime in a prime point of their careers.

Some of them may have gone down the totem pole for poor form, but instead of being transferred or being given a second chance, they’re stuck in the reserves.

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Many players would most likely make a move during the transfer window to a club where they can get more playtime to improve or sometimes more money if they were caught up in this, but some seem to have refused to give up on that United starting XI spot.

The recent reports that Antonio Valencia will potentially be leaving the club after United decided they won’t extend his contract highlights this club loyalty that has seemed to exist at the club for decades.

Valencia could possibly be leaving the club on the 10-year anniversary of the now 33-year-old Ecuadorian national’s arrival at United, and while he has faced quite a few bouts of injury, Valencia has managed to stick with the club through the thick of the changes the club was enduring throughout the last six years.

While Valencia has stayed fairly consistent with his appearances since 2013, he did lack in appearances during the 2015/16 season, only making 24 appearances due to injury in all competitions with the club. However, while he has had his struggles, he never gave up on the club, and he stayed loyal in the hopes to redeem himself at United instead of leaving to a smaller club.

Ashley Young joined the United squad from Aston Villa in July of 2011 with an atmosphere of excitement around him. Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to match his form at Aston Villa, as over the next few years after he moved, his appearances became less consistent, and so did his form it seemed, as he only made 24 appearances in all competitions that year.

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Again, many players (especially as they age) would consider making a move to increase their playtime and get them back into form. Young stuck around and kept up his training to remain in consideration for the first team spot, and this is something that is becoming more and more unique about United. The players are not willing to give up on the starting positions, even when they are bumped down the list.

Both of these players show different scenarios in which the United badge seemingly kept players who could have easily made a move and kept them in the fight for a starting role. Many others have definitely been in this position like younger players Luke Shaw and Jesse Lingard, who some may say have been knocked back a year or two, due to not fitting into a system at some point while United have been enduring changes.

While those players still had time to prove themselves given their youth, veterans such as Young and Valencia suffered cuts to their playtime during the prime points of their careers.

However, in the modern age where the only goal for players is to become the biggest star and receive the highest wages, some still prioritise the club, and will take a cut to their own playtime just to wear the United badge when they do come on the pitch, and of course, to possibly lift another trophy while wearing the badge as well.

Written by Joel Dulka

Should Ashley Young, Antonio Valencia, Juan Mata and Matteo Darmian have their contracts renewed?

With all of the contract news coming out of Manchester United recently I felt it only prudent to examine which player’s contracts will be expiring in June 2019, at the end of the season, and give my thoughts as to whether or not each player has done enough to warrant a renewal or not.

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Ashley Young

First up, and if you’ve read my previous pieces you’ll know this to be true, is my favourite player Ashley Young. With his contract expiring in June 2019, at the end of the current season, there are reports that he will be renewing his contract soon. Per these reports, he was offered a 12-month extension but wanted a two-year deal, like the one Marouane Fellaini was given, much like Juan Mata. However, if reports are to be believed he will be accepting the 12-month extension instead.

A lot of fans believe Young to be a good squad option and you’ll be surprised to hear there are even some who think he should stay in the first team, which is absolute madness.

I, however, believe he should be shipped out as soon as possible so that other players can take his spot, such as Diogo Dalot and Timothy Fosu-Mensah. If the club needs to keep him for another year just to be sure they have a right back in place who can be relied upon then that is fair, but it shouldn’t come at the expense of other players.

If Young stays then he should most definitely be put to the side and used only if, and when, he is desperately needed. Otherwise he is collecting a wage and taking the spot of someone of higher quality because as sure as the sun rises you can be sure that Young is no longer of the quality that a Manchester United player should be, his legs are gone and his crossing is woeful, he has outstayed his welcome at the club by a good two to three years.

Final Verdict: Do not renew

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Antonio Valencia

Sitting on the opposite side of the pitch to the aforementioned Young is Antonio Valencia, another winger converted into fullback and although he is a few years younger he has admitted to needing ice on his knee every day in order to keep playing the way he does.

Much like Young on the right or left, he is also rather ineffectual on both sides and despite a few moments of brilliance offers very little to the club, especially if they are to move forward and challenge for any titles.

Valencia has not played any minutes since the 2-0 victory over Newcastle United on January 2nd, which was his one and only appearance under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, so you have to wonder if, given there is no injury news, he is being phased out and prepared for release.

Back at the beginning of the season, there were reports that Jose Mourinho was unhappy with Valencia due to the defender putting on weight over the summer break and coming back in poor condition. This, combined with him needing constant icing of his knee, is reason enough for him to no longer pull on a United shirt.

It’s a sad fact that often an older and more experienced player will be kept at a club and have a detrimental impact on younger players who are fitter, healthier and just as capable. It is because of all of this that I believe Valencia should be let go, as if given the choice between only one of him and Young staying at the club until others are ready then Young is the one who should stay, although both should still leave.

With any luck, the club will opt against renewing his contract or taking up the 12-month extension they can trigger, as it will be hard for them to sell him elsewhere and get any kind of fee for him.

Final Verdict: Do Not renew

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Juan Mata

The Spanish playmaker with a heart of gold is next and as I previously mentioned he was offered a 12-month extension on his contract but he wishes to have two years instead. Mata has expressed his desire to stay at the club though and if he really does want to stay then accepting the 12-month extension would be a no brainer right?

Unlike the prior two players I do believe Mata can offer something to the club and he is a good option to have when you need something in the last 10-15 minutes as Mata does have an eye for a pass and he possesses the uncanny ability to be right where he needs to be to come up with a goal every now and then.

The issue with Mata is that he doesn’t offer much in the way of speed and is one of the slowest players at the club, although he used to be fast his legs have also gone. This is a big problem in a team that now likes to play offensive, quick attacking football, he was perfect under Mourinho when the team didn’t need much movement, but now the team needs someone like Jesse Lingard more than they need Mata. This is why he should be a last resort and late game player as he will be more effective when the opposing players are tired.

I do believe that the club should retain Mata as a squad option due to what he can offer and a 12-month extension should be all he gets, again to enable to club time to find someone else to understudy for whoever makes the right side their own.

Final Verdict: Renew, but only for 12 months.

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Matteo Darmian

I’m sure many of you read that name and the first thing that came to mind was, ‘Who?’ because to many supporters it is hard to believe Darmian is still at the club, especially as he always seems to have interest from clubs in Italy. However, it always appears that Manchester United are asking for too much for him and it puts teams off.

With a grand total of 361 minutes of football this season you would be hard pressed to name anything he has done for the team at all in the 2018/19 season. The answer, quite rightfully, is not much.

With the ability to operate as a midfielder and on both sides of defence Darmian is a relic of the Van Gaal era, a time all United fans would like to forget if not for the dull football alone. However, for the last few years, Darmian has always seemed to be used as a left back, which is rather surprising considering his lack of ability to defend.

You may very well be able to see where this is going and that is not to the good place. Darmian is currently 29  years of age and not getting any younger and the only thing he appears to have brought to the club is a pair of awful sideburns that seemed to just exist on the sides of his head without purpose. He is very much a squad player as of now and should be giving up his place for, again, some younger blood.

If the club wants to keep him as backup for the backup on the left or right then it would be better suited getting Darmian off the books and having Demetri Mitchell as the backup instead, someone who has a lot more game time this season, albeit on loan with Hearts.

Darmian, like Valencia, has an option for a further year at the end of the season and should the club wish to they will trigger the option, however, I believe they are best off letting him go because nobody is going to pay anything more than £5 million for him.

Final Verdict: Do not renew

Due to the number of players whose contracts are expiring in June, this will be part one of two.

Written by Craig Holland-Greenfield

Ashley Young reportedly agrees a new one-year contract at Manchester United

Manchester United fullback Ashley Young has reportedly agreed on a new one-year contract with the Old Trafford club. It has been suggested that talks had been ongoing since November and the 33-year-old will remain at the club for the 2019/20 season. Young has been a target for other Premier League clubs, according to reports but clearly sees his future will lie at United. The player has been in good form recently and has knocked Antonio Valencia out of the side and most of the time is the captain on the pitch.

United signed Young eight years ago from Aston Villa for a fee of around £17 million, led at the time by Sir Alex Ferguson. Whilst playing for United, Young has won many major honours, including; one Premier League title, one FA Cup, one EFL Cup, one FA Community Shield, and one UEFA Europa League trophy. Granted it is not the most spectacular trophy haul but is much better than other players at other clubs.

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Although Young will turn 34 in the summer, he has proven himself as a player needed in this team. Some criticise him because he is a winger who has been converted into a fullback but he’s pretty good in the role he performs in, most of the time. Young, like any other player in this game, will have off days, that is all part of life. I would much rather see Young in the right-back role over Valencia, although I would rather see Diogo Dalot given the nod ahead of both players.

Young was a favourite of Jose Mourinho and has been stalwart under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, playing in the majority of the ten matches the Norwegian has managed at the club so far this season. Young was favoured so much that he was called up for England ahead of the FIFA World Cup last summer, which saw England reach the semi-finals of the tournament, going out to the runners-up, Croatia. It shows that Young still has something to offer at this level of the game.

Back in December, Young spoke to the media about how he felt at this stage of his career, with him saying; “I feel as fit as when I was 21 years old. As long as my legs can keep taking me up and down the pitch, I’d love to stay here.” He obviously still feels good, so why change anything. He’s a player with a lot to offer and could be used to ease Dalot into the starting XI on a more regular basis, which may take some time.

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Recently, United has secured Luke Shaw, Chris Smalling, and Anthony Martial to new contracts with speculation also linking Marcus Rashford, Juan Mata, Ander Herrera, and David De Gea to new deals, which would be a wise choice by the club, for most of those players anyway. This has led to some moaning from the social media supporters of the club suggesting that United would rather keep what they have as it would be much cheaper than to bring in new players. However, applying logic, why change something that works?

This summer is going to be very important for Manchester United. It is said that Ed Woodward wants to have a new manager in place at this time, also bringing in a Director of Football which should ensure the club get the important decisions right, which Woodward seems to fail to understand. Eric Cantona has recently put a cat amongst the pigeons by posting on Instagram saying; “I can’t tell you anything but you will love it,” also tagging in the club. Could he be involved in the new era of the club?

How Ashley Young became one of Jose Mourinho’s go to men at Manchester United

Following his inclusion in Gareth Southgate’s 23-man England squad for the FIFA World Cup, it seems appropriate to look at how Ashley Young’s Manchester United career has fluctuated.

Before joining United, Young flourished at both Watford and Aston Villa, where he put in consistently strong performances, earning him the accolade of PFA Young Player of the Year in 2009. He was given a more central role at Villa after enjoying success from wide for much of his career. This was reversed when he joined United as he returned to a wider position. Although he initially saw a lot of game time under Sir Alex Ferguson, injuries stunted his development in Ferguson’s final season at the club.

Under David Moyes, Young struggled to be the creative influence he could be, and his United career appeared in the balance. However, he turned things around in the following season under Louis van Gaal as he was used more in a more defensive capacity, playing wing-back on either flank.

Young was rewarded for his consistency, signing a new three-year contract in the summer of 2015. Despite consistent performances at right-back in the early months of the season, injury would return to haunt him as a groin issue ruled him out until April. Between April and the end of the season, he struggled to re-establish himself as a certain starter, and the pattern of inconsistent games continued when Jose Mourinho took over in 2016.

It appeared at the beginning of the 2016/17 campaign that Young was not part of Mourinho’s plans for the future, and he could be part of a major operation to shift what some have called ‘dead wood’ from the club. However, with United short of defensive cover, Young’s opportunities began to increase (albeit they were still short of what he’d have liked). He seized these opportunities to impress the manager, who quickly took to Young’s desire to wear the shirt and win in it:

“Ashley is phenomenal, with his attitude, positivity, and determination.”

Although his season was once again ended prematurely, he had done enough to firmly be a part of Jose’s plans for the 2017/18 campaign. He has managed to make the left-back position his own, starting over Luke Shaw, Matteo Darmian, and Daley Blind despite the Englishman turning 33 this year. He has turned himself into a reliable full-back, putting in stellar defensive displays and still contributing to attacks in the way which first caught Sir Alex’s eye.

This was best seen in his performance against Watford in November when he bagged a brace which included an unbelievable free-kick from all of 30 yards. Young has come in for much criticism during parts of his United career. This has included the wrath of United icon Roy Keane, who said:

“If Ashley Young is a Manchester United player, I’m a Chinaman.”

This came after a Champions League game in 2015, but a call-up to England’s World Cup squad for this summer shows how far Young has come since then. He’s become a crucial part of the dressing room at the club too, taking the captaincy on various occasions. Alongside Michael Carrick, he was instrumental in inspiring the comeback at the Etihad in April, taking charge of the dressing room at half-time and reminding the players of their responsibilities. With Carrick retiring, Young’s experience and desire will become even more pivotal to the squad.

Young is certainly in contention to start in Russia, and his form this season would warrant it.

Written by Rob Potter

Ashley Young apologises for Spurs defeat when all said and done, he should be proving that shirt belongs on his back

Ashley Young has stated that Manchester United will be looking to bounce back from the 2-0 defeat to Tottenham Hotspur at Wembley on Wednesday evening. United had a great start to 2018 by winning five of the six matches played, conceding two goals in the first month of the year, both conceded in the same game. Christian Eriksen’s 11-second effort and Phil Jones’ own goal, which put the player in the bad books of the clubs supporters once again. Young, who played at left-back in the match and despite him rediscovering his form at stages this season, was out of his depth himself.

It was only the fourth defeat of the Premier League season for United and they still retain the second position in the league, three points ahead of both Liverpool and Chelsea but now 15 points behind Manchester City, who are only going to continue their domination in the league, especially with no challengers – only Liverpool have beaten them this season with every other team seemingly rolling over – United included. When a player says the club will hit back from their defeat, it should make the blood flow in your veins – but for me, the same players say the same thing after defeat.

Under David Moyes, Louis van Gaal and now Jose Mourinho, United have had many defeats and there is always a player who comes out and states that United need to fight back in their next match. That is what they need to be doing but I find it rather ironic that the players stating this are usually the ones who lacked fight in the defeat. For me, Young is not a left-back, just a player who can fill a number of positions when rotation is needed. The left-back should be occupied by Luke Shaw in every game – he should be fit enough to play regularly, instead of playing one, then rested the next.

Young is one of the more experienced players who was brought in from Aston Villa by Sir Alex Ferguson and has lasted at the club during the disappointing seasons under Moyes and Van Gaal. Mourinho has done his own thing at United, had changed the mentality of the entire squad but on a night at Wembley, United just did not seem to be the same team which had been playing for the past month, the frustration fully shown on the face of the manager. Speaking to MUTV and reported by the official Manchester United website, Young stated:

“Obviously, we’re disappointed to concede a goal so early on and to be 2-0 down at half-time is tough when you play a tough team like Tottenham.

“This was going to be a tough game. If we got the next goal, it would have been a different story. It wasn’t meant to be – there is a lot of disappointment in that dressing room but we have got another tough game this weekend.

“We’ve got to dust ourselves down, pick ourselves up and go again.”

There is still a lot of work to be done at the Theatre of Dreams. If you cast a critical eye over the squad, there are some players who just do not offer what they should be offering. Over on the other side of Manchester, those players who fit the similar profile were sold on and replaced but United seem to be stuck with many players who do let the squad down. Chris Smalling, Phil Jones, and Young are three of those, all present since the days of Ferguson. Time is running out for players like this and hopefully, in the summer, some or all will be shown the door.

When you see a poor performance from a particular player or players, then one of them says what Young has done, it annoys me. It seems, to me at least, that the player, who clearly did not give their all in the defeat to Spurs, then come out and stated the obvious, something they should have done, collectively, in the game they are talking about. Last night at Wembley, there were 11 gutless players not up for the challenge or overcoming that early goal. United should be better than that. It is not all down to the manager, but the players too. All of them are responsible.

United will entertain Huddersfield Town at the Theatre of Dreams on Saturday afternoon, a day which will commence the remembrance of those who perished in the Munich Air Disaster, a disaster which was looked on by many players through the years at the club. It was used to inspire youth and show them what the traditions of the club were, also give them some fighting spirit. In this day and age, all that seems to have gone out of the window. Eight United players died in that tragedy, more never played again. That should get the blood flowing and give some fight.

It seems to be much different with players not putting in the performances required, stealing a living at a top club, when in actual fact they deserve to be playing lower down the pecking order in English football, or beyond. These players feel that becoming apologists on social media or vial official club channels will appease the fans for the half-hearted approach they adopt during matches of importance. That is not how it works. Ashley Young, instead of talking about your own disappointment, find that fire in your belly and prove you deserve that shirt on your back!

Jose Mourinho gives fitness update on Ashley Young, Luke Shaw and Marcos Rojo

Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho has given an injury update on injured trio Ashley Young, Luke Shaw, and Marcos Rojo ahead of the Premier League clash with Leicester City at Old Trafford on Saturday evening. The Portuguese manager has confirmed that Young is closer than Shaw in terms of returning to action for the first team despite both coming through 60 minutes of action for the U23’s in the 1-1 draw with Swansea City on Monday evening. Both stepped up their comebacks this season after spending the summer putting in some hard work on the road to recovery. Shaw will again be involved in the U23’s for the second time this week as United lock horns with Tottenham Hotspur in the Premier League 2 on Friday evening.

The fact that Young and Shaw are closer to being a part of the first team again is a big boost for Mourinho and United, especially with the UEFA Champions League and the Carabao Cup coming into contention next month with United playing seven matches in September, the busiest month of the new season so far. Young and Shaw were seen training with the first team on Tuesday casting speculation about the pair’s return but with United not confirming anything until Mourinho’s press conference on Friday afternoon, in which he confirmed to the official Manchester United website that Young was much closer to being back in action than Shaw, saying:

“[Ashley] Young will be earlier than Luke [Shaw]. There are seven matches to play in September in three different competitions, sometimes just two days between matches, so we need our squad. We need everyone.”

Marcos Rojo has also been out of action with a knee injury sustained against Anderlecht in the UEFA Europa League, incidentally the same night as Zlatan Ibrahimovic suffered a severe knee injury too. The Argentinian has been working hard on his return to action, also seen training with the first team on Tuesday but well behind the likes of Young and Shaw who had been training for much of the summer in a bid to be fit and ready as early as they could in the new season with United expected to mount a serious title challenge in the Premier League. Mourinho commented on the fitness of Rojo, saying:

“Again, there is no rush. When I see him run, I like it. It doesn’t look like somebody with an injury. There is no limping, there are no details of injury but that is just body language, that is just straight running. Football is different, we have to respect the timings and the timings are bringing Marcos [Rojo] to the team around December, not before.”

Rojo will be out for much of the first half of the season, which was expected in the weeks following his knee injury. It was feared that the player could be out of action for the majority of the season, which turned into the majority of the first half of the season. Mourinho himself has stated that the Argentinian will be back in December, not before but also stated that his recovery was going well, which is a great sign. United will need to be careful in bringing him back to action as if he got involved too early and suffered a recurrence of the same injury, his season would be over before he had even started.

Mourinho had previously confirmed that Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who United re-signed on Thursday would play no part in the group stages of the UEFA Champions League, seemingly being back in action early in 2018, which will be something to savour. United have some great experience in the sidelines in Young, Shaw, Rojo, and Ibrahimovic at this time and when all four are back in action, United will be so much stronger across all areas of the pitch. United have started the season strongly already, so that added strength will be something to feast your eyes upon. United may just awaken this season showing the rest of the Premier League and maybe Europe that the best is ready to get back into the swing of things.

Manchester United Player Season Review 2016/17: The Midfield

Manchester United did not have the best of seasons during the 2016/17 campaign which commenced in high spirits with Jose Mourinho replacing Louis van Gaal as the manager, with the Portuguese former Chelsea and Real Madrid manager bringing in Eric Bailly, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Paul Pogba as his four summer signings, Pogba being the current world record signing which could be eclipsed and even surpassed this summer if reports are to be believed. Mourinho had instilled the winning mentality into his new club just weeks after be became the manager, pushing for big changes from the start of the season. United started off by beating Leicester City to win the FA Community Shield, the first of many trophies under Mourinho, which turned out the be the case only in the first season.

United started well in the league, winning their first three matches, but a three-match losing streak then turned the season upside down, losing two Premier League matches and one in the UEFA Europa League. United found their feet again, but the ups and downs kept coming. Too many draws in the Premier League, most of them at home became a problem for United, which contributed in their sixth-placed finish, a first for the club who had finished seventh (David Moyes), fourth and fifth (Louis van Gaal) post-Sir Alex Ferguson. The season had a different feeling to it though, something was being built for the future, Mourinho was bringing United back to the helm just like Ferguson did in the 1990’s.

Of course, Rome was not built in a day, but things are changing. United ended the season with two more trophies; the EFL Cup, beating Southampton 3-2 at Wembley at the end of February and the UEFA Europa League, beating Ajax 2-0 in Sweden, more importantly earning a UEFA Champions League group stage place next season, the minimum requirement for Mourinho and his team. The season reviews have been written for the Premier League, EFL Cup, Emirates FA Cup, and the UEFA Europa League now it is the player’s turn to be reviewed and rated, now the midfielders.

Paul Pogba

The £89 million man had a bad season according to his critics with their mentality being that he cost that much so should be scoring 189 goals, assisting 1001 times and keeping 250 clean sheets a season. A transfer fee does not dictate how many goals a player will score. Some suggest he should be a striker for the money paid. I don’t get why they get involved in conversations clearly above their mentality at the end of the day. Paul Pogba has been consistent despite changing from the Serie A to the Premier League, which is a much different league but still keeping his personal stats on par with the past four seasons at Juventus. Some will never appreciate Pogba and what he does for his club. Those people need to learn to accept that they have no control in any factor concerning the player but they won’t.

Appearances: Premier League: 30, Emirates FA Cup: 2, EFL Cup: 4, UEFA Europa League: 15, FA Community Shield: 0; Total: 51

Goals: Premier League: 5, Emirates FA Cup: 0, EFL Cup: 1, UEFA Europa League: 3, FA Community Shield: 0; Total: 9

Discipline: Yellow Cards: 10, Red Cards: 0

Season Rating: 4/5

Juan Mata

The Spaniard was set to be the first player out of the door when Jose Mourinho was named the manager of the club, based on the opinion that he sold him at Chelsea so would do the same. That did not happen and Juan Mata became an important player throughout the season. Mata suffered an injury late on into the season with Mourinho ruling him out for the remainder, but he returned week after an operation, showing the likes of Phil Jones and Chris Smalling, who were still on the sidelines after seven weeks from suffering their injuries in March whilst on England duty. Mata played 41 times this season, winning three trophies, two of them major honours, scoring ten goals, which was much-needed form the midfield during the course of the season. United need to be scoring more goals from midfield, with this summer’s acquisitions important into commencing that. Mata could well remain at United after this summer, he should at least.

Appearances: Premier League: 25, Emirates FA Cup: 3, EFL Cup: 3, UEFA Europa League: 10, FA Community Shield: 1; Total: 41

Goals: Premier League: 6, Emirates FA Cup: 0, EFL Cup: 2, UEFA Europa League: 2, FA Community Shield: 0; Total: 10

Discipline: Yellow Cards: 5, Red Cards: 0

Season Rating: 4/5

Jesse Lingard

Jesse Lingard is a player who has offered a lot for his club over the last few seasons, scoring in the Emirates FA Cup final, the FA Community Shield and in the EFL Cup final, something he should be celebrated for, but for some reason, supporters don’t see what he offers the team. They seem to think he is not good enough and certainly not worth of a pay rise or a new contract, which he signed earlier in the season. Lingard may not be a Cristiano Ronaldo-esque player, he has something to offer. Many choose not to see it. He may not be a guaranteed starter, and next season with new additions coming, he may not be, but as a squad player, he has something to offer, until at least he leaves the club or does something special to become a starter. Sir Alex ferguson said he would be a late developer, of which he was. Perhaps he should be given a better crack of the whip.

Appearances: Premier League: 25, Emirates FA Cup: 2, EFL Cup: 4, UEFA Europa League: 10, FA Community Shield: 1; Total: 42

Goals: Premier League: 1, Emirates FA Cup: 0, EFL Cup: 1, UEFA Europa League: 2, FA Community Shield: 1; Total: 5

Discipline: Yellow Cards: 6, Red Cards: 0

Season Rating: 4/5

Michael Carrick

The veteran midfielder will race the pitch against in the coming season, signing a new contract at the Old Trafford club over the past few weeks. Michael Carrick has been the midfielder that United would not want to lose over the past season, calm and assured on and off the ball, putting in the effort needed, the majority of the time at least, which United needed in order to control the midfield. Carrick is an important player, one which when Paul Pogba plays too, sees the Frenchman able to play in a more advanced position, adding something else to United’s team. Carrick will play for another year at least, then United will have to find his replacement if he does not arrive at the Old Trafford club this summer.

Appearances: Premier League: 23, Emirates FA Cup: 2, EFL Cup: 5, UEFA Europa League: 7, FA Community Shield: 1; Total: 38

Goals: Premier League: 0, Emirates FA Cup: 0, EFL Cup: 1, UEFA Europa League: 0, FA Community Shield: 0; Total: 1

Discipline: Yellow Cards: 1, Red Cards: 0

Season Rating: 4/5

Ashley Young

Ashley Young is probably a player who will be allowed to leave the Old Trafford club this summer. He does have some teams interested in signing him. He has done well over the past season, despite playing a more defence minded position, playing in both the left-back and right-back positions, helping his team with what they needed. Only 23 appearances will not impress him, at the stage of his career, he will need to be a starter, which could see him leave for China, Turkey or even a lower ranked Premier League club. He was wanted by Watford in January, a former club of his before he signed for Aston Villa.Young was not a player many wanted to see at the club, especially after losing Cristiano Ronaldo, but to give him his dues, he has scored some important goals, playing some important parts at the club. This season saw him end it on the sidelines through injury, which would have irked him a little.

Appearances: Premier League: 12, Emirates FA Cup: 3, EFL Cup: 1, UEFA Europa League: 7, FA Community Shield: 0; Total: 23

Goals: Premier League: 0, Emirates FA Cup: 0, EFL Cup: 0, UEFA Europa League: 0, FA Community Shield: 0; Total: 0

Discipline: Yellow Cards: 5, Red Cards: 0

Season Rating: 4/5

Ander Herrera

The Spanish midfielder has found his purpose this season under Jose Mourinho. Ander Herrera has played a much deeper role, marking players like Eden Hazard and helping United find some form this season, beating Chelsea 2-0 at Old Trafford from probably his best match for the club in three years. Herrera is wanted by Barcelona if you believe the transfer reports in the newspapers, but the player wants to remain at Old Trafford, which has been said by his own mind and mouth. United’s midfield is much better with him in it, now that he has seemingly found his purpose. Herrera, Paul Pogba, and another midfielder will do well for United, Pogba being allowed to do what he does, not having to continually drop back and defend the midfield, using his creative aspect for the game instead. Herrera is a crucial player for United, offering everything he needed to offer, doing what he needed to do. I am sure Hazard still has dreams about him marking him out of the game, something he was unable to get through during that match.

Appearances: Premier League: 31, Emirates FA Cup: 3, EFL Cup: 6, UEFA Europa League: 9, FA Community Shield: 1; Total: 50

Goals: Premier League: 1, Emirates FA Cup: 0, EFL Cup: 1, UEFA Europa League: 0, FA Community Shield: 0; Total: 2

Discipline: Yellow Cards: 5, Red Cards: 0

Season Rating: 4/5

Marouane Fellaini

The Belgian had a mixed season. Jose Mourinho trusts him and he trusts Mourinho. That is something we shall have to get used to should he remain at the Old Trafford club this season. Marouane Fellaini has played his part for much of the season, scoring some important goals, but he has helped undo the work United have put in, that late penalty he gave away against Everton which turned what was looking to be a 1-0 victory, into a 1-1 draw. Fellaini offers aggression and physicality in the midfield, also playing well on the attack, offering height and an eye for a goal, especially from a header. That seems to be something that many will not congratulate him for because he arrived under David Moyes, was the only summer signing of that season and was not the player many wanted. I like Fellaini for what he offers, as over the past few seasons he has done some good things, but United do need much better than him in midfield, especially for Paul Pogba to be played to his strengths.

Appearances: Premier League: 28, Emirates FA Cup: 3, EFL Cup: 5, UEFA Europa League: 10, FA Community Shield: 1; Total: 47

Goals: Premier League: 1, Emirates FA Cup: 1, EFL Cup: 1, UEFA Europa League: 1, FA Community Shield: 0; Total: 4

Discipline: Yellow Cards: 9, Red Cards: 1

Season Rating: 4/5

copyright: JW