Manchester United: Can Ashley Young Recover from a Poor 2012-13 Season?

Nick Akerman@NakermanFeatured ColumnistMay 30, 2013

WIGAN, ENGLAND - JANUARY 01:  Ashley Young of Manchester United runs with the ball during the Barclays Premier League match between Wigan Athletic and Manchester United at the DW Stadium on January 1, 2013 in Wigan, England.  (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)
David Rogers/Getty Images

Things haven't gone according to plan for Manchester United winger Ashley Young.

Although he produced a handful exciting displays in his first Old Trafford season—including two scorchers in the 8-2 walloping of Arsenal—the England international's 2012-13 campaign wilted under inconsistent form and a general lack of quality.

It was a difficult season from the start. In September 2012, Young was ruled out of action for a month after picking up a knee injury. He left Old Trafford on crutches during the 2-1 win over Liverpool at the beginning of 2013 and in April, he was cropped for the season with an ankle injury.

Even so, the experienced player managed to notch 17 starts and four substitute appearances across all competitions. He provided three assists in the Premier League and failed to score when selected. Although United's others wingers, namely Antonio Valencia and Nani, also posted disappointing campaigns, it is Young who needs to recover the quickest.

This is largely because both Valencia and Nani have contributed massively across previous seasons. The Ecuadorean mopped up United's Sir Matt Busby, Players' Player and Goal of the Season awards after the 2011/12 season, while Nani's assists and goals played a huge part in the club's 2010/11 Premier League triumph.

Despite contributing very little since their best year in red, both of these players have earned time at Manchester United. Their brilliant displays of previous seasons ensures they have room to make mistakes, although it's fair to say both Valencia and Nani need strong 2013/14 campaigns if they are to remain at Old Trafford.

Young doesn't have this luxury. At Aston Villa, he proved himself as an intelligent and pacey winger who has the ability to deliver crosses right into the danger zone. His goals are often spectacular, but similar to United's other wingers, he doesn't score enough.

The 27-year-old's United career has currently lauded eight goals in 56 games, averaging one successful strike every seven matches. This is marginally better than notoriously poor goalscorer Valencia, who has accumulated 17 in 147, averaging a goal every 8.65 games. Nani's rate of fire is much better with 40 in 216 appearances, averaging one every 5.4 matches.

When you consider Young produced one assist in every 5.66 starts across the recently finished Premier League season, his poor numbers begin to tell a greater tale. The left-sided winger has become predictable in his method of attack, often showing opposing full-backs where he is likely to turn with an obvious twist of the body.

Young's directness has vanished, leaving him unable to easily bypass the threat of incoming danger. He completed an average of 0.5 dribbles per game last season, a number beaten by several full-backs including Patrice Evra, Rafael and Alexander Buttner. The struggling flanker was dispossessed nearly double this amount, losing the ball an average of 0.9 occasions per match.

There's a serious lack of confidence in Young's play. Most interestingly, his numbers plummet even further in front of the Old Trafford crowd. Across nine performances at United's stadium, he averages just 0.2 successful dribbles per game. He has also been dispossessed once on average and fails to deliver as many key passes.

Is Young struggling under the pressure of representing one of the world's biggest clubs? Did the horror of his missed penalty at Euro 2012 impact his game beyond the international scene? These are important questions when assessing his future at Manchester United, an environment where there is nowhere to hide.

Places will be up for grabs in David Moyes' lineup. It is likely Young, Nani and Valencia will be competing for two spots on the wing, although Shinji Kagawa and potential new signings could increase the numbers depending on the new manager's ideas.

Can the £17 million man recover from his disappointing second season with the Red Devils?

The answer to that question could define Young's entire career. If he can maintain fitness and string a consistent run of games together, his sharpness is likely to return. Moyes' arrival may afford the winger a clean slate, allowing confidence to return more easily.

If it doesn't, United will be forced to cash in on a player whose potential remains unfulfilled.

Can Ashley Young recover from a poor 2012-13 season for Manchester United? Let me know in the comments section below and be sure to follow me on Twitter right here:

All statistics in this article are courtesy of Whoscored unless otherwise noted.


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