Manchester United entered Saturday’s match against Brighton knowing they needed to win if they wanted to keep their title chances alive.
The Red Devils chose to repeat the same tactic they used against Newcastle United, and the idea on paper was quite good. Let’s remember United defeated The Magpies 4-1, and Brighton posed a similar challenge in the sense that they were going to sit back and play on the counter. United needed creativity to turn things around, because they were likely to meet a team that wouldn’t have problems parking the bus at Old Trafford.
That’s exactly what happened. Brighton played negative and United crashed against their defence time and time again. Until midway of the second half, when a lucky bounce on a defender left Mat Ryan out of play and the ball sneaked into an impossible angle. The one surprising thing was that it wasn’t Paul Pogba, Romelu Lukaku or Zlatan Ibrahimovic who ended making the difference for United. No. The one who made it happen was no other than Ashley Young.
One of Manchester United’s Best Players Of Late
We already covered Young’s road back to relevancy during the current season. The former winger dealt with several injuries in the past, but he is 100% healthy now. He had to adjust as well, as he went from being a winger to a left-back. But the results have been far better than what anyone would have expected. Young is a regular starter now on Mourinho’s 4-2-3-1 system, and he even got an England call-up a few weeks ago. If things go right, we could see him playing for The Three Lions in the 2018 World Cup next year.
And he showcased all of his credentials against Brighton this past Saturday. Not only he played a pivotal role on the sequence that led to the goal, but he was a constant threat on the wing. He occupied almost the entire left wing due to Anthony Martial’s truggles, and often appeared on an attacking position. The stats don’t lie, as Young finished with four crosses, four dribbles, two shots, one key pass, and a 75% of passing accuracy. Those are great numbers for a full-back, and suggest he was constantly involved on the attacking end.
A secondary player making the difference
United have lots of attacking options, but the team can’t trust on the same players over and over again. There will be games where Martial, Pogba, Lukaku or Marcus Rashford won’t be able to thrive. And when that happens, other players need to come to the rescue of the team. That’s exactly what happened against Brighton, where one of the most experienced first-team members saved the day for The Red Devils. Young not only gave the side three points, but he also kept the title chances alive for one more week.
And in a competition as tight as the Premier League, winning games such as the Brighton one on Saturday is often the difference maker between a title run, and a UEFA Europa League berth. So far, United remain on the right track. And Ashley Young has been a big reason why over the past few weeks.