The 27-year-old cost Manchester United £16 million and Sir Alex Ferguson was almost immediately justified in his speculation of that amount as Young burst straight into the first-team as one of their best performers in his debut season at Old Trafford.
He was named Man of the Match on his Premier League debut for the Red Devils against West Brom in August 2011 and scored a brace later that month against Arsenal at Old Trafford, endearing him to the home fans.
The following month he headed in a dramatic late equalizer in United’s 3-3 draw with Basel in the Champions League, before being sidelined for several months through injury.
This season, he’s made just 20 appearances in all competitions for United and has failed to get his name on the scoresheet. He’s made 5 assists all coming in the Premier League but he’s been substituted off the field by Ferguson in very nearly half of the games he’s played.
There is absolutely no doubt about his quality – he is exceptionally technically gifted on the ball, his pace and energy make him one of the most dynamic wingers in the league and his finishing is superb when he’s on form; his wonder strike against San Marino proves that.
However form is hard to come by when he’s constantly picking up injuries and subsequent niggles and, at 27, his body doesn’t recover as well as would have done if he were a teenager still.
He’s stated himself recently that he’s been disappointed and frustrated with the season he’s had and said words to the effect that he’s unhappy when he’s in the gym instead of on the training ground with the rest of the team.
Whilst injuries are part and parcel of professional football, they can be a problem for some more than others and unfortunately it seems Ashley Young’s career is headed that way.
Whilst it is my firm belief that Ferguson will remain patient and supportive of the player, if, as time drags on, Young cannot return to his former form in his last season at Villa, the boss may find be forced to find an alternative.
At present, there isn’t an out-an-out left-winger who can overtake him – Tom Cleverley, Shinji Kagawa and Ryan Giggs can all play in his position but are not proper replacements for him. By the end of this summer, however, that may change.
Speculation linking United with a move for Tottenham’s Gareth Bale are just rumours and conjecture at present but, whether it’s Bale or anyone else, I wouldn’t be surprised if Ferguson brought in a left midfielder this summer which, unfortunately, might spell the end of Ashley Young’s Manchester United career.