Manchester United have a serious Ashley Young problem
Background Image Via: Pixabay. Used under Creative Commons 2.0.
Manchester United were jolted right back down to reality last night. FC Barcelona weren't in a forgiving mood, they put the Red Devils to the sword, albeit United didn't help themselves whatsoever...
Costly individual mistakes proved to be the downfall. An uncharacteristic David de Gea error pretty much sealed the deal, but who are we to knock a player who has saved our bacon on so many occasions? I'd like to focus on Ashley Young, whose dilly-dallying on the ball set the Catalonians on their way, gifting a goal to Lionel Messi, albeit the Argentine still had work aplenty to do.
Now aged 33, Young has been converted to a full-back over the last few seasons, most notably playing on the left-hand side under Jose Mourinho. The re-emergence of Luke Shaw meant the ex-Aston Villa man has shifted over to the right-back slot this term. For the most part, he has done alright. When you're playing for United, though, 'alright' isn't good enough.
I'd like to start by pointing out that it's not even down to Young himself. Who wouldn't jump at the chance to play in these pressure-cooker situations against the best players on the planet? We'd all give it a good go, myself included... Who is he to turn down an opportunity to test himself against the very best? While proudly wearing the United captain's armband no less. At this level, all these players believe they have what it takes. The harsh reality is that Young no longer has the legs he once had, while his on-ball ability is diminishing pretty rapidly.
The clip above is just calamitous defending. Not only does Young spend far too long trying to find a pass, he then had about three opportunities to just hoof it clear and get United further up the field. Instead, he tried to do some fancy pirouette before trying to play out from the back while all his teammates were being heavily pressed. With Messi breathing down your neck that rarely ends well. It's just poor decision-making from a player so experienced.
Fine, he wasn't the only one. However, the limelight remains firmly on Young due to the fact that he was comfortably the worst player on the field in the first leg too. It's a worrying trend for United. Not only is he not a full-back by trade, but his peak years are firmly behind him, and he's Solskjaer's best option? It's utterly damning of the way this once-great club is being run at present.
Not to rub salt into the wounds but Young has been granted a one-year contract extension. That's something I have no problem with if it means he's sticking around in some sort of rotational capacity. Unfortunately, I fear the club still see Young as a regular first-teamer who is an asset in these big games, rather than a hindrance.
This wasn't meant to be a Young-bashing session. In fact, I find he signifies everything wrong about this club at the moment. Like so many others, United have been all-too-willing to hand big-money deals to average footballers. That's exactly why good players like the aforementioned De Gea, and his Spanish pal Ander Herrera, aren't willing to commit to new contracts unless they're paid an arm and a leg to stay at Old Trafford. It's a problem that has been building over the last few years and during a two-legged tie against Barcelona, your weaknesses will always be exposed.