There might not be much room for debate on whether Manchester United should employ the midfield diamond more often or stick to their wing-play tradition if the indifferent form shown by their wingers this season continues – in particular, Ashley Young.
The decision to spend 17 million (source: BBC) on Young last season confounded many fans. Nani, Rooney and Welbeck could all play down the left (the latter two in a 4-3-3). Ryan Giggs and Fabio Da Silva could also perform decent cameos on the left. Hence, with the well known problems being in central midfield, it was baffling that Sir Alex would spend big for another winger.
A probable idea would have been to employ Young more ‘in the hole’, as the creative outlet between the midfield and attack, and to take over the dead ball situations. But he has been ineffective on both fronts, and despite showing some promise in the first three months of the season, that form has quickly fizzled out.
A first-season return of 6 goals and 9 assists for a midfielder is good, but not for a £17m attacking midfielder who had 17 assists in his first full season at Aston Villa and 14 in his last season prior to arriving at United. Even Alex Song, who played a more withdrawn role for Arsenal, had 11 assists last season.
The poor form has continued into this season. After returning from injury, though he has been a regular starter, his performances have been frustrating for the fans. Failure to run past defenders, inability to whip in a decent cross, and wasting dead ball situations aren’t the reasons why Ferguson would sign a winger. Despite this, injury to Nani and Kagawa means that he is the only option on the left wing. Or is he?
When Cristiano Ronaldo was at United, Rooney often played down the left. It might not be his favoured position, but in a 4-3-3, he could be more flexible with Van Persie occasionally moving to the left during a game. Or Welbeck, who played on the left during his successful loan spell at Sunderland two seasons ago, could also interchange with Rooney in this, or a more mobile 4-3-1-2. On Kagawa’s return, he could play in the hole in this formation and switch places with Rooney on the left. Ferguson could also use the diamond structure that was successfully employed against Braga and Newcastle.
Fact of the matter is that Ashley Young is not indispensable. There are other players / formations that can be used to ensure he’s not selected week-in week-out. Antonio Valencia might not be in great form this season either but he still manages to beat defenders down the right and put a cross in. Moreover, he links up very well with Rafael down the right flank. At the moment, Young doesn’t have much going in his favour and it won’t be long before, like the fans, the manager runs out of patience too and tries to cut his losses.
What do United fans think of Young’s form? Should he be dropped? Get involved in the comments section.