The once surplus-to-requirements attacker has enjoyed a renaissance as a wing-back under Louis van Gaal, and his consistently impressive performances continued against LiverpoolAshley Young backed up his two-goal haul against Real Madrid with another solid outing against Liverpool as Manchester United won the International Champions Cup.
The 29-year-old has been given a fresh lease of life under Louis van Gaal, and showcased his ability at both ends of the pitch in Miami.
Goal takes a look at the rapid winger-cum-wing-back’s performance and whether his reinvention can save his United career…
|PERFORMANCE AGAINST LIVERPOOL
Manchester United’s whole team gave a generally accomplished display against Liverpool, beating the Merseysiders 3-1 to win the International Champions Cup, and one player that stood out was wide-man-turned-wing-back Young.
The former Watford and Aston Villa man, deployed in a new role by Van Gaal, initially started on the left – from where he struck twice against Real Madrid last time out – before switching flanks following Antonio Valencia’s early injury.
The injury-hampered attacker, very much playing for his future at the club, rampaged up and down the touchline, showing enough recovery pace to bail out his defence on several occasions as well as firing in dangerous crosses.
It was Young’s end product that was most impressive, routinely playing passes into the fabled “corridor of uncertainty” and consistently finding his team-mates in dangerous areas. An in-swinging cross in the fifth minute produced a sitter for Javier Hernandez, who somehow conspired to miss from close range.
That said, he was culpable for the penalty that gifted Liverpool an early lead. Showing signs that his defensive awareness is not quite as strong as it could be, Young lost Raheem Sterling as the speedster darted in behind only to be felled by Phil Jones.
But his defensive reading of the game improved as the game wore on, slowly taming Sterling, and another trademark sprint up the touchline and rasping, low cross resulted in United's third and final goal.
|WHAT DOES THE FUTURE HOLD?
Prior to the Red Devils’ trip to the United States, Young would have been top of the list of players expected to leave Old Trafford this summer – especially after Van Gaal opted to use the same 3-4-1-2 formation that was such a success with the Netherlands.
With little need for wingers in such a system, Young’s days appeared numbered, but he was given a chance to prove himself in a more unfamiliar role due to Luke Shaw's lack of fitness and has duly risen to the occasion.
Linked with a return to Villa Park not so long ago, the England international could now become a surprise lieutenant for Van Gaal and has emerged as one of the players the Dutchman can rely on most. From veering towards the exit door, Young now appears to have a role to play not just in the squad, but the starting XI too.
|A GOOD 2014-15 WOULD BE...
Young’s immediate goal will be earning and cementing his position as Van Gaal’s go-to wing-back, a task made ever-so-slightly easier by injuries to Valencia and Rafael, as well as lingering doubts over the fitness of summer recruit Shaw.
The Englishman has shown plenty of intent from wing-back and should be looking to match, or even better, the six goals and seven assists he recorded back in the 2011-12 campaign, his maiden, and best, season at Old Trafford. An injury-free season would be very much welcome for a player who has endured several spells on the sidelines recently.
Pre-season is, of course, a different beast entirely to competitive matches and the onus will now be on Young to fulfil his off-season promise when the Premier League kicks off. If he can marry his natural attacking instincts with defensive work rate, Van Gaal could become as attached to the versatile attacker as he was with Dirk Kuyt while in charge of the Netherlands.