Manchester United have been under par this season with a number of their big names such as Angel Di Maria, Robin van Persie, Juan Mata and Radamel Falcao failing to have the impact that many expected of them. However, Ashley Young has re-emerged under Louis van Gaal and he has been arguably the standout performer of the season with a number of key contributions. He has played both as a winger and a wing back for the club, showing his versatility, which is something that wasn’t attributed to the former Watford and Aston Villa player before this season. Young has bought into Louis van Gaal and his philosophy and that has shown in his performances for the Red Devils.
After a period of poor form and controversy due to diving accusations, Young was beginning to fall out of both the United and England picture. At the age of 29, he should be at the peak of his powers and be a regular for both club and country, but recent seasons haven’t been very successful for the winger. This season he has been much improved and his influence on United is only second to that of Wayne Rooney and given some of the players in their squad, that is a huge achievement for Ashley Young. His performances have been consistent and that has been recognised by Van Gaal as Young is above Adnan Januzaj, Angel di Maria and Juan Mata when it comes to a place in the starting eleven.
He only has one goal and one assist to his name this season, but he has had many other key contributions to goals with consistent play down Manchester United’s left. He doesn’t have the ability to do something out of nothing like Di Maria, Mata or Januzaj, but his consistency of being able to beat a man and put dangerous crosses into the box make him a crucial part of the United side. Against Newcastle, Van Gaal opted to play Marouane Fellaini and Wayne Rooney as the attacking pairing up front with the Belgian playing off of the United and England captain. If this continues over the coming weeks, then they will score a lot of goals from crosses, making the quality of the delivery even more important, which is why Young could be key to the side over the run in.
His defensive contribution is also much more than the other wingers in the squad as he averages 1.5 tackles and 2.1 interceptions per game, highlighting his ability to get back and do some of the dirty work for the team. Meanwhile, his passing success rate of 81.7% shows his ability to keep the ball, which is an important part of Van Gaal’s game. His winning goal against Newcastle may have been down to some very questionable defending. Nevertheless, Young showed his ability to get into the right position and it was his awareness that allowed him to score an easy goal.
Manchester United face a very difficult task to qualify for next season’s Champions League as both Liverpool and Arsenal are beginning to show the kind of form that left United trailing behind last season. The Red Devils themselves have been poor in recent weeks, with many stating that they are fortunate to be winning as many games as they are. However, unlike last season, Van Gaal has made his side hard to beat and the defence is improving week by week. The top four race is an interesting one, and luck will play a huge part in that. United have a number of players out of form, but in Ashley Young they have a consistent player who will continue to create chances for his team-mates every week.