Under Ole, Manchester United have evidently embarked on a more youth-centred policy. This approach was evident with the club signing Wan-Bissaka and Daniel James in the summer and the promotion of youth team players like Brandon Williams, Mason Greenwood and James Garner to the first team. Furthermore, since his arrival in Dec 2018, Ole has gradually culled the older players from the first team – with Fellaini, Herrera, Smalling, and Sanchez all departing the club. Ashley Young appears to be the next senior player to be axed by the Norwegian. Inter Milan have reportedly agreed a $1.3 Milion dollar move for the veteran right-back. Even though most Manchester United fans would rejoice at this decision, I think Young’s transfer is a poor piece of business (for United) and could have long term impacts on the squad.
Yes, It makes some sense to cash in than let him go for free
I agree that the decision to let Young go is a financially sound one. Ashley Young is no longer the 25-year-old spring chicken he once was. After eight and a half seasons of mixed performances at Old Trafford, he is 34 years old with his contract expiring at the end of the season. The opportunity to sell him now not only injects a bit of cash into the club but also frees up the wage budget by a bit.
If you were to ask most United fans, they would be happy to see him leave the club. Young has produced moments of sheer brilliance (remember the goals he scored against Arsenal). However, he has also produced god-awful displays during his time at United, which has often cost the Red Devils matches.
Yet, I can’t but help wonder why the club is selling Young at this juncture, midway through the season.
Ashley Young has been a loyal servant to the club and whether you like him or not, is a role model at United. Having joined in 2011, Ashley Young is one of a handful of players have Premier League winners medal with the club. [The others being Phil Jones and David De Gea. Though, Mata and Matic won the Premier League with Chelsea]. He has the experience of what it takes to win trophies. Every locker room needs characters like that to help guide the younger players and ensure that their heads remain cool in difficult situations.
More importantly, young Manchester United players should take grasp the chance to learn how Ashley Young successfully reinvented himself as a full-back. Young single-handedly prolonged his time at Manchester United when he successfully converted to a wing-back under Louis van Gaal (LVG). Van Gaal staunchly believed in the 3-5-2 formation during his time at United and Young would have been shipped out if he could not fit that system. Even though Young gets a lot of stick from United fans, in all fairness, Young played well most of the time as a wing-back under LVG. Young’s presence at the club symbolizes the notion of perseverance and reinvention. It motivates players not to give up and look at different ways to reinvent themselves to fit Ole’s system better.
Besides the symbolism, it makes no practical sense to let Young leave. Manchester United are fraught with injuries in defence, and Young helps to plug the gaps in the back. While Diogo Dalot is now fit and Aaron Wan-Bissaka is the starting right-back for the club, Luke Shaw is still out injured and has been injury-prone. Brandon Williams has slotted into the left-back position nicely but who do United have as back-up options? Marcos Rojo is out injured. While Dalot could play as a left-back, what cover is available for Wan-Bissaka? Timothy Fosu Mensah is out and has been out for sometime now. He can’t be expected to start weekly straight away after such a lengthy spell on the sidelines. Amidst such an injury crisis, Young offers much-needed depth in the full-back department because he can play either side.
Man United need versatile players in such a fixture-congested season. Besides Perreira, who can be deployed virtually anywhere in midfield (albeit to varying degrees of effectiveness), Ashley Young is probably the only other “utility player” at United. He can be used anywhere along either flank (be it as a full-back, wide midfielder or winger). This is important since United are still involved in every major competition they have taken part in. Besides the Premier League, the club is also playing in the Europa League, League Cup and FA Cup. The fixtures will undoubtedly pile up, and the Red Devils need to rotate their squad to limit fatigue. Young offers a solid back up option and can start both Europa League, and FA Cup matches as United focuses on securing a Champions League spot in the League.
Also, and quite frankly, what is 1.3 Million Pounds to a club like United – what is the real reason behind axing Young? The club doesn’t appear to be making any signings this January, and there has been no serious attempt to blood in academy prospects (who can play in the RB role) like how Ole has incorporated Brandon Williams into the first team. So why not wait till the end of the season, utilize his experience, and give our captain a proper sendoff. As a fan, it is frustrating to see a lack of recruitment when we have little squad depth. It becomes even more frustrating when the club prioritizes the sale of players that are not “deadwood” but arguably essential members of the squad. Just saying, it would make more sense to prioritize the sale of Matic, Rojo, Phil Jones over Ashley Young.