One of the biggest surprises in the England squad for the upcoming friendly matches against Germany and Brazil is the presence of Ashley Young.
The former winger had lost his place in the squad and quickly became an afterthought, to the point that he didn’t even make the squad for the 2014 World Cup. Many experts and pundits were ready to write off saying he needed to leave Manchester United to play on a smaller team, but Young didn’t back down. The former Aston Villa star kept fighting and his faith has been rewarded with a first England call-up since 2013.
A long-road making adjustments
But how did Young got to this point? The veteran fought with injuries and lack of playing time but, according to his own words, “he never thought about leaving the club.” In an exclusive interview with Manchester United’s official website, Young said he always had the “determination to get back in the squad and get back playing.”
Things have not been easy for Young, though. There have been adjustments and positional changes in recent years. But the moves have paid off. Young joined Manchester United in 2011 as one of the most explosive wingers in the English Premier League after a tenure with Aston Villa that saw him score 30 goals in 157 appearances across all competitions. But after quickly realising he didn’t have space to start as a winger anymore, he made a positional change and now plays as a left-back or wing-back, depending on the tactical scheme.
Young said he is happy that he is playing, although he didn’t hide the fact that he would like to be playing further up the pitch. But Young has enough experience, and can adjust quickly. As he said in the aforementioned interview, he “reads the game well enough” to play on a different number of roles. The numbers have backed him up, because Young has quickly established himself as the team’s starting wing-back on the left. He is playing on a regular basis over more “suitable” options such as Luke Shaw, Daley Blind or even Matteo Darmian. All three have seen action during the season, but it seems Mourinho prefers Young over the rest.
A well-deserved place in United’s starting XI could reap World Cup benefits next year
His road to recovery was a very long one. But his resiliency, hard work and drive to excel never left him. He struggled with injuries, too, suffering several groin and hamstring problems over the past few years. But he kept his head high and never gave up. As such, he has been rewarded due to his hard work with not only an England call-up, but also a regular spot in Manchester United’s starting XI over the past few matches.
And who knows? If he can keep playing at a high level, we might see him representing England in Russia next year. It would be quite a comeback story for a player who had to adapt and change his playing style in order to remain revelant. And the change has been extremely successful.