Ashley Young Has Yet to Live Up to Expectations at Manchester United
It helped them forget about the near £20 million spent to sign a player entering the last year of his contract.
There is a difference between good Premier League players and United players.
Young proved he was the former during four successful years at Villa Park. But, entering his third season at Old Trafford, he's yet to prove he's made the step up.
It all started so well.
His run and cross created the winner against West Brom at the Hawthorns on his Manchester United Premier League debut.
And he was one of the stars of United's 8-2 demolition of Arsenal two weeks later, scoring from two wonderful long-range efforts.
But his first season with United ended in far less happy circumstances.
He was caught up in a diving controversy after winning a penalty against former club Aston Villa and then watched United throw away their lead in the title race to let City nick the trophy.
And his last kick of the season was a missed penalty against Italy to send England crashing out of the European Championship.
Plenty of players have been cast as England's villain before bouncing back with a storming season the following year—David Beckham after his red card in 1998, for example.
Any hopes he had of earning redemption in a United shirt were disrupted by injury.
And, two years after starting every game of England's last major tournament, Roy Hodgson has left him out of his squad for two vital World Cup qualifiers against Montenegro and Poland. Andros Townsend, who has only played a handful of times for Tottenham in the Premier League, has been picked instead.
But Young's club form hasn't warranted an international call-up.
He hasn't played since the 4-1 defeat to City, when he was hauled off just after half-time following a worryingly abject display.
At 28, Young should be at his peak.
But the confidence that shone through in his early United career has disappeared. And the ambition to attack his full-back and shoot from distance has been replaced with a stunted caution.
It may have been caused by the focus on his diving, unwilling to run at defenders for fear that he'll unconsciously go over and find himself on the back pages for all the wrong reasons yet again.
It could just be a rough patch.
But whatever the cause, that confidence will have to return if the fans, and Hodgson, are to regain their confidence in him.
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