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Ashley Young, Zero to Hero

When Louis van Gaal took over from David Moyes as Manchester United manager, it was obvious that a big clean out was inevitable. Players such as Welbeck, Kagawa and Cleverley where shown the door, whereas others were given what could be seen as ‘one last chance’. Unfortunately for some, it seems that chance has gone. However for certain individuals in the squad, that chance was all they needed to stake their claim in the side and show what they’re all about.

At the beginning of the season, many would’ve written off Ashley Young as a player surplus to requirements and someone that Louis van Gaal would surely allow to leave Old Trafford. However, it has become clear that the Dutchman saw something in Young that would allow the winger to climb his way back into the starting 11 and become a major part of the squad once again.

When Ashley Young first signed for United back in 2011, many had the then 25 year old down as a relatively good piece of business by Ferguson. His United career started with a bang. A string of good performances with added assists and a goal or two ensured his place in the starting 11. However, his good fortune soon began to fade. As Young lost his place in the England team, he also became a bit-part at United.

The Englishman’s career continued to spiral downwards, continually being criticised for diving and his rather lax performances. It was only a matter of time before he would feel the wrath of United fans, who mostly mocked his apparent incapabilities with keeping hold of the ball, not to mention the comparisons with Olympic diver, Tom Daley. All in all, it must have become a very sour time for Ashley Young.

When Van Gaal called up Ashley Young in a wing back role early on in the season, it was widely thought that it was only a temporary move. Luke Shaw was having troubles keeping fit and Daley Blind, who played in that position under LvG in the World Cup, was enjoying his central defensive midfield role in the side. Young’s performances didn’t catch the eye in truth, as United’s inability to play with 3 at the back generally stole the headlines.

It wasn’t really until Louis van Gaal reverted back to 4 at the back when United fans realised Ashley Young wasn’t just a part time member of the team. Young started to keep his role in the side as a defensive winger and gradually developed a lot of respect among fans and pundits alike. Whatever it was that Louis van Gaal saw in Young, it eventually meant that the 29 year old would claim his place in the United team ahead of the clubs record signing, Angel di Maria, a sentence which would have been ridiculed just months before.

After his Manchester derby performance this weekend, which saw him claim the Man of the Match award following a goal and an assist, Ashley Young has continued to receive huge amounts of praise. Many are urging England manager Roy Hodgson to consider Young for England once again, others believe LvG should tie the winger up with a new contract in order to stop the player leaving for free next year, with reports now emerging that Young would accept a pay-cut in order to sign a new 3 year deal with United. Either way, such as United’s season on a whole has shown, it has been a huge change in fortune for the winger.

After the game against City, Young had this to say about the game:
“It’s a magnificent win. We knew we had to get three points. It was disappointing to go a goal behind, but we showed the character to get back and no-one else was going to win when we went ahead. It’s an amazing feeling to score a goal and get an assist.”
When asked about his transformation as a United player, Young added, “I’ve just listened to what the manager said and I wanted to repay him.”

And it doesn’t end there for the United man. Manchester United team mate Juan Mata took to his blog in order to thank Ashley Young for his great performance in the derby match against Manchester City. He wrote: “Ashley was decisive to tie the score and also in our second goal, and after that we could control the game and add up three more points that are very important to reach our goal. Perhaps the most remarkable thing, once again, was the character and personality shown by the team after a bad start of the game.”

All in all, it’s been a quite remarkable turnaround for the Englishman. Ashley Young has been one of United’s stand out performers this season and it will surely be only a matter of time until he reaps the benefits of his consistency with a new contract and/or a recall to the England set-up..