Houllier looks to Young to provide a happy return

Gerard Houllier has only been in charge of Aston Villa for less then a week but already he has seen enough to convince him that Ashley Young has the ability to become a regular in the national side.

Young reminds him, claims the former Liverpool manager, of a young Michael Owen.

Today is day six of Houllier's second tenure in this country and in the hurly-burly world of the English game he is already preparing for his second match; a short trip to Molineux for what is likely to prove a searching examination for a side that have endured an erratic start to the season under Kevin MacDonald's temporary stewardship.

Young, who scored twice in the Carling Cup win over Blackburn, has been one of Villa's better performers and has made an immediate impression on his new manager. "He's more like Michael Owen than Steven Gerrard in terms of what he can deliver and produce," said Houllier when asked to compare him with his former charges. "He reminds me more of Michael Owen, but he's got an eye for the pass as well. Ashley can make goals, score goals. It's a good challenge for me to make him improve. Ideally I would like him to step up a bit more, but he's got everything it takes to reach the very top. I would like him to be a regular international player. That's the first stage.

"The second stage is for him to really progress to the highest level. I haven't seen many players I've worked with who didn't progress."

Young is still in discussions over a new £70,000-a-week contract with Villa and there was a concern that Houllier's arrival would not be enough to persuade him to stay, but the Frenchman's willingness to build his attacking philosophy around Young and find a position on the field that suits the 26-year-old have turned the tables.

"I am hopeful he will sign," said Houllier. "Things are going on well and the discussions have been positive. He can be a star, but a star as a team player and his input must not be only making goals and scoring goals. It's his work-rate and his attitude that can improve the rest of the team.

"One of the major ingredients of the very top players is that they always have a lot of confidence in themselves. They can take responsibility."