Ashley Young displays the confidence to rescue Manchester United career from nosedive
In this period of uncertainty and doubt, Manchester United will take any kind of win and the players any hint of wellbeing, Ashley Young more than most.
United's alarming Premier League decline has been compounded, in the case of Young, by personal crisis. The career nosedive has acquired a literal dimension, threatening not only Young's place in the team but at the club. The start in the 1-0 win over Shakhtar Donetsk on Tuesday was an opportunity to restate a claim, but he accepts that the diving issue, while stopping short of admitting guilt, is one that must be confronted.
"I'm not going to comment on what's been said. Of course I understand what you're saying but I've spoken to the previous manager and current manager. The referees are giving decisions and that is where I think it lies. It's one to ask the referees. They're the ones who are giving free-kicks and penalties.
"Referees have got tough decisions to make. I don't take notice of the headlines or the debates. For me, the referees have made decisions and that's it."
Even without the controversies, Young's contributions have been uneven. His appearance against Shakhtar was his 11th of the season. The emergence of Adnan Januzaj has compromised opportunity still further. If Young is to persuade manager David Moyes that he has a future at the club he needs to add consistency to the flourishes.
United travel to his former club Aston Villa on Sunday and Young is determined to maximise minutes in the shirt. "It's been disappointing I've not been involved as much as I would have liked," he admitted. "Every player in the squad wants to play every game and I'm no different to that. I want to play each game but it's up to the manager to pick the team so I've just got to keep doing the things that are right in training and take my chances when I'm given them. We'll have to see if the manager picks me again."
Young is either developing rhino skin or he is becoming adept at stripping emotion from the equation. He has had his share of stick from the stands but takes the same rational approach to criticism as he does to the choices made by Moyes. "You always have a bit of criticism now and then. It's the way you take it. I'm a positive person. I always want to play well and show the fans how I can play.
"I'll just have to keep training as hard as I have done. I just want to get back out there playing. I'm a player who always wants to play each game and if I can give the manager a headache in training then it's his decision whether I play or not."
The buzz word at Old Trafford is momentum. The 5-0 victory at Bayer Leverkusen was thought to be a threshold crossed, after which the club would march on in the Premier League. One point from nine is the take up since.
Now the hope is that the second-half display against Shakhtar will result in more gifts down United's chimney over the Yuletide period. "We're going into an important part of the season at Christmas and new year, which is full of games," Young said. "We have got plenty of points to pick up so I think if we can build on this result we could keep the momentum going all the way through to the new year."
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