18. ASHLEY YOUNG
|Birthdate:||09 Jul 1985|
|Joined United:||01 Jul 2011|
|United Debut:||7 Aug 2011 v Man City (N)|
Ashley Young’s emergence as a major influence with England showed the livewire forward is made for the big stage and he has adapted well to life at Old Trafford.
Having unluckily missed out on the 2010 World Cup squad with Shaun Wright-Phillips getting the nod instead, he looked set to be a key figure at Euro 2012 but was unable to help Roy Hodgson’s side progress beyond the quarter-finals, unluckily hitting the bar during the penalty shoot-out defeat to Italy. Of bigger concern to United fans will be how he develops after a season of bedding in to life in Manchester. Injury halted his progress around Christmas time but there were some incredible highs during his debut campaign including sensational doubles against Arsenal and Tottenham. Young’s career has been on a steadily upward curve after suffering the blow of being on the brink of being released as a youngster at Watford. He showed great courage and tenacity to force the Hornets to change their mind, and prove them hopelessly wrong, and became subject of a bidding war – eventually won by Villa in 2007. The fee, rising to almost £10million, was declared far too steep by those supposedly in the know but it soon started looking like a bargain. Flourishing at Villa Park, he won the 2009 PFA Young Player of the Year award and was declared ‘world class’ by manager Martin O’Neill after one sensational performance against Everton. After fulfilling his potential with Villa, a World Cup place seemed a certainty only for coach Fabio Capello to look elsewhere but the player’s response – as to his early setback at Watford – shows he has character in abundance. Earning more responsibility in a central attacking role, he racked up the assists and goals in his final campaign for the Midlanders and was one of the Premier League’s most productive performers. By signalling his desire to make the step up to Champions League football and deciding not to sign a new deal, it became obvious that he would move on with several top clubs keen on his signature. United pushed hard to land their target to hand him the bigger stage he craves and he quickly pushed for a start on the left flank. A matchwinning assist on his Barclays Premier League debut for the Reds at West Brom quickly earned him acclaim, and a chant in his honour, but it was his sensational display in the 8-2 annihilation of Arsenal that proved he had genuinely arrived at M16. Attracting some unkind publicity in the press after earning penalties in consecutive weeks against QPR and Aston Villa, Sir Alex Ferguson revealed he would speak to Young to stop him getting an unfair reputation for going to ground too easily. Although contributing plenty to the season, including firing a clinching goal at Blackburn when United looked on course to retain the title, and opening the scoring in the penultimate game against Swansea, he will look to nail down a regular spot in 2012/2013 and continue to weave his magic down the left flank. The man who famously went to school with Lewis Hamilton in Stevenage is now firmly in football’s fast lane.