Young signing poses questions about United improvement

With the news on Thursday that Ashley Young has signed a five year deal at Manchester United, the England winger becomes the second signing at Old Trafford already this summer. United are believed to have spent £15 million on the former Aston Villa man which along with the signing of Phil Jones takes their spending to over the £30million bracket. There is no doubting United have snapped up a pair of talented young English players, but it does pose the question of whether either signing will in fact improve Sir Alex Ferguson’s side significantly.

Jones is no doubt one for the future. With his partnership with Chris Smalling flourishing in the England U21’s and looking likely to eventually succeed that of Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic, his worth cannot yet be estimated. However, the same cannot be said of Young. He comes to Old Trafford nearing the peak of his career on an apparent upward trajectory from first Watford and then Villa Park. Having now established himself as a key part of the England squad and often pushing for a start in Fabio Capello’s side, it does appear that the time is right for Young to continue his progression with the Premier League champions.

That said promise is one thing and if Young is really to deliver for United he has to up his game to levels not yet reached. For Manchester United fans they will immediately point to the wealth of riches in wide areas. Both Ji-Sung Park and Antonio Valencia finished the season strongly following long lay-offs and Nani carried the fight alone for much of the season weighing in with nine goals and 18 assists. No one was involved in as many Premier League goals last season as the Portuguese, although Young managed seven goals and 11 assists in what was a troubled season for Villa. This would suggest that Young is not far off that standard, but whether he is better and will bring something different to United is something only he can answer come the start of the season.

Looking at United’s existing wide men all can be happy with their showing in the last campaign; however, none will be happy with their performance in the final game of the season. During those times of limited possession at Wembley, none of the wide players was able to expose the weakest area of Barcelona’s ranks. This may well be the reason why Ferguson has opted for Young, especially considering his threat from the left and his ability to come inside and operate in the hole. For all Park’s work rate and movement, often when in possession his limitations are all too apparent. Young has the confidence to hurt teams in this area and no doubt will do so against numerous Premier League opponents, but whether he can do this against the top sides in Europe is not yet something he has had the chance to show.

Ferguson looks likely to add David de Gea to his ranks for a fee in the region of £20million, taking his summer spending to over £50million. For many United fans without the addition of at least one central midfielder it is difficult to see where the real improvement on last season’s squad is. If this central midfielder does not arrive it is certain some added pressure will be on the shoulders of Young.

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