To remain at the top, you can’t afford to rest on your laurels, and despite winning a fourth Premier League title in five seasons and advancing to a third Champions League final in four seasons, the expectation is that this year’s summer transfer window will be a relatively busy one for Manchester United, at least in comparison to the last couple of summers.
With the 2010/11 campaign nearing a close and the transfer window a mere couple of weeks away from opening, transfer rumors are already in high gear before the silly season even officially begins.
Aston Villa star Ashley Young is purportedly one of the names at the top of United’s summer shopping list, and while some might not see the logic in United splashing the cash to bring the former Watford man from the Midlands to Manchester, he has every chance to be a success at Old Trafford.
Rumor has it that Young was the mystery man that United were unsuccessfully in for in January, and if speculation is to be believed, that interest hasn’t died down in the least.
Initially, I wasn’t wild about a potential move for Young, because to be English, highly talented, already established in the Premier League, and still relatively young is to have an inflated valuation. At the £25m that has been mentioned in the past, I didn’t see the sense in it, talented as Young may be.
I also wondered whether Young had improved enough over the last few seasons to warrant such an investment, and if his issues with inconsistency would override what he could bring to the table.
However, I’ve gradually become warmer and warmer to the idea of Young coming to United, but only for the right price, that is.
Young has stated that he wants to win trophies, and Villa haven’t quite made the step up that it seemed they were on the cusp of over the last few seasons. I expect them to bounce back from an admittedly poor overall 2010/11 season, and the future does hold some promise there if Randy Lerner is willing to make the right investments, but of Young’s potential options, he’d have his best shot for those honors at United.
With that lure and with Young having only one year left on his current contract and not appearing overly interested in extending his stay at Villa Park, the best Villa could hope for is a bidding war between United and Liverpool that could drive the price near or above £20m instead of a more likely – and reasonable – price of no more than £15m or so.
The main point of contention for many, more than price, is whether or not Young would fit and if he’d see the kind of appearances that would justify his fee. With two top-class (and still relatively young) wingers already in the side in Nani and Antonio Valencia, some are of the assumption that we won’t have a place for Young unless there’s fire to the previous smoke about Nani moving abroad this summer.
That’d be a question worth asking were Young a winger and nothing more (he’d make a heck of a third-choice winger, but United wouldn’t be shelling out £15m or so for someone to fill solely that role), but that’s not the case. An in-depth piece by 5 Added Minutes says most of what I’d say here, but the gist of it is that along with being a fine winger, he slots in well in an advanced central midfield role, and if anything, that’s where he’d prefer to be.
So, we wouldn’t have any concerns about where he would fit, and there wouldn’t be an issue about finding regular starts for him as well, if he merits them.
Considering the injuries that we had to deal with this season, having someone who offers up the kind of versatility that Young does would be a big, big plus. More than that, add in his pace down the middle with what we already have on the flanks with Nani and Valencia, and it’ll make for a ton of trouble for opponents, especially when you think of how much interchanging could be done between the three.
Lastly, and most importantly, is the matter of how effective he would be and whether his production would make for a proper return on the eight-figure investment.
There’s no doubt he’d be a terrific asset if he’s on top of his game, but the consistency isn’t always there like it should be, the end product can leave a little something to be desired, and statistically, his last three seasons haven’t matched a terrific 2007/08 campaign that seemed to indicate that he was a star in the making.
However, you’d have to think that a move to United would only bring the best out of him. At United, he’d train with the best and learn from the best on a daily basis, have the chance to play a key role in annually fighting for the highest honors, and truly take his game to the next level. He’s still at the age where he can improve, where he can adapt, where he can still be molded, and if his will to do all of those things matches the ambition he seems to have, he could easily justify the investment in him sooner than later.
As it is, Young is fully capable of racking up 10-15 assists or more and chipping in with several goals, and having another option who can have a direct part in 20-odd goals per season only serves as a further boost to our front line, which benefits from having so many opportunities sent their way and at the same time don’t have the pressure of being relied on for 90% of our goals. If he can make the kind of leap Nani has this season (and Nani’s best is still yet to come, in my opinion), he can be even more productive, and that’s all the better for an already potent attack.
All indications are that United will be making, or perhaps already are making, a concerted effort to land Young this summer. There may be a battle with our red rivals from Merseyside before all’s said and done, but if the price is right for United, it’d be a move we wouldn’t regret.
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