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BENVENUTO YOUNGY

Why Inter Milan’s pursuit of Ashley Young makes perfect sense

The days of anyone being excited about Ashley Young are long, long behind us.

When he arrived at Man United back in 2011 he was a fresh-faced forward with a bright future, signed as part of Sir Alex Ferguson’s most thorough overhaul of his playing resources since the 90s.

But these days it’s his versatility and experience that keeps him in the squad at the age of 34.


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As one of the most senior members of the team, Young has become one of the few constants throughout United’s difficult post-Fergie era while also filling in the gaps as a make-shift full-back.

So in many ways it’s unsurprising that Inter Milan are interested in signing him this month. 

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After all, in nine years Young has been through it all.

He was a vital part of United’s attack in the early-years, often being deployed on the left-flank and cutting inside with his right foot to add a different dimension to their final-third.

That was how he scored his first goals for the club in the famous 8-2 thrashing of Arsenal.

But that side of his game didn’t last beyond his Old Trafford prime, and he’s never come close to matching the six Premier League goals he totalled in his first season since.

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Not that that mattered too much, as Young became a peculiarly important member of the squad in other ways.

It was during the reign of Louis Van Gaal that he began to play multiple roles in the team in just about every outfield position — ranging from full-back to makeshift striker.

As Van Gaal experimented with a back-three, Young suddenly became an important part of the team as a wing-back.

While never the most defensively astute player, Young was favoured time and time again by both Van Gaal and Jose Mourinho after him for his work-rate and enthusiasm on either flank.

Perhaps not the most glamorous of roles, but Young was able to clock up 60 league appearances in two seasons, all the while being the wrong side of 30.

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His role and subsequent performances with United was even enough to convince England manager Gareth Southgate ahead of the 2018 World Cup, with Young becoming a main-stay in the side that reached the semi-finals.

It was Kieran Trippier who impressed with his attacking contribution on the right-flank in that tournament, but Young was quietly efficient on the left-side and started five games in Russia.

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But while it’s one thing to return to the international scene, it’s something entirely different to be pursued by one of the most exciting clubs in Europe right now.

Antonio Conte is beginning to build a team at Inter that’s capable of finally toppling Juventus, but like every great side he’ll need squad depth, experience and versatility.

That’s where Young comes in.

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With his contract set to run out in the summer, he’ll likely cost the Italian side peanuts compared to other options.

He’ll also be working under a manager who favours using attack-minded wing-backs — we all remember the lethal contributions of Victor Moses and Marcos Alonso during Conte’s title-winning first year at Chelsea.

This season, his Inter side has mostly deployed three centre-backs with wing-backs in support; this means Young will have less defensive responsibility than he does at United — where he plays as part of a traditional back four.

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Of course, many United fans will be quite happy to see the back of Young.

His age and recent decline has seen him lumped in with the club’s long list of so-called ‘deadwood’ in recent years — which usually includes anyone from Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo, through to Fred and Luke Shaw, depending on who you talk to — and it seemed almost inevitable that this season would be his last at Old Trafford.

But his dressing room presence, on-field leadership and his role as a utility man will be sorely missed, especially at a time when the club is in desperate need of leaders and role models.


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