It’s not often that Rant comments on transfer speculation, after all there are plenty of red tops chasing paper sales that suit the practice better. More to the point, there has been so little activity of note in recent seasons that speculation is, by definition, an exercise in futility. However, recent tabloid commentary about Aston Villa’s 25-year-old winger-come-forward Ashley Young not only has merit but might point to a deal that brings quality to Old Trafford at a price Sir Alex Ferguson considers ‘value’.
Such is the recent heightened speculation about Young that former Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Jamie Redknapp assumes a transfer North is a done-deal. After all, his father, Spurs boss Harry, knows a thing or two about doing a deal and will have sounded-out the player, whose Villa deal expires in 2012.
Indeed, there is more than a whiff of Antonio Valencia’s transfer to United in summer 2009; a deal which United had effectively completed six months previously.
“Ashley Young looks better every time I see him, he has electric pace and dribbles with his head up; he looks a future Manchester United player to me, and an ideal replacement for Ryan Giggs,” said Redknapp today.
“Aston Villa will have to cash in on the England winger in the summer rather than let him go on a free next season.”
No Ryan Giggs of course, but Young’s star is on the rise; a talent that has progressed in each season since the player made his Premier League début with Watford in 2006. Moreover, United is a left-winger short though, with Giggs in his 38th year and Park Ji-Sung injury-prone and normally earmarked for a specific defensive job in the Champions League.
In fact Sir Alex Ferguson is heavily reliant on the pair, whom have played 51 times between them to date this season. Giggs has signed a new one-year deal with the club, keeping the Welsh legend at Old Trafford for one final hurrah, although Park is yet to extend a contract that runs out in 2012. The South Korean’s form this season is patchy enough to question his long-term future in Manchester.
Meanwhile, Young has progressed under Gerard Houllier even if his Villa team has gone decidedly backwards. Used as an orthodox winger by previous coach Martin O’Neil, Frenchman Houllier has discovered a greater flexibility in the player, with Young frequently deployed right or left in a forward three or ‘in the hole’ behind a target man this season. In fact, just the kind of adaptable forward Ferguson treasures.
Young’s statistics are a touch better than average this season, having scored eight and assisted 13 in a poor Villa side. It’s somewhat lower than the 17 assists credited to the former Watford player in 2007-08, although the player has half-a-dozen games to correct the statistics. By contrast, United’s Nani has 10 goals and 16 assists in all competitions this season.
The player would welcome a move to United of course, with Villa in free-fall this season and unlikely to qualify for European competition. Having broken into the England side since the World Cup, Young is unlikely to countenance another season in mid-table ahead of Euro 2012 in Poland and Ukraine.
“It’s always nice to be linked to those sort of teams [Spurs, United, Liverpool] but I’m an Aston Villa player, I’ve got a year left of my contract. I just want to do well for the club,” said Young this week, in the usual heavily media-trained guff that footballers normally emit before signing elsewhere at the first available opportunity.
“I’ve always said that I’m an ambitious person. To play in the biggest competitions, the European Championships, the Champions League, FA Cup finals, League Cup finals, the World Cup, the Euros, I want to play in them all. Every player would want to win trophies, titles and medals. I’m no different. I’m an ambitious person like any other person who’s in football.”
The question for United is twofold: is Young good enough for the club and is the deal at the right price? Certainly, Young’s price-tag is likely to be the Glazer family’s liking given the players contract situation. If Gareth Barry’s transfer to Manchester City for around £12 million in 2009 is a benchmark then United may just be close to sealing a bargain for a player whose star is on the rise.
Yet, United supporters will rightly ask questions of Young’s pedigree. After all, the 25-year-old is no top performer in the Champions League, nor is he an 18-year-old with a world of progress ahead. On the cusp of United’s upper age-bracket for transfers, Young can add only to the Reds’ squad resources rather than take Ferguson’s team significantly forward.
Supporters asked the same questions of Valencia though, before the Ecuadorian’s £14 million move from Wigan Athletic. And Valencia, who is only six months younger than the Villa forward, has been a huge hit at Old Trafford. Time will tell whether Young will join the Ecuadorian; in Manchester and success.