Manchester United pre-season tour: Louis van Gaal gives Ashley Young some reasons to be cheerful

Van Gaal's 3-5-2 formation puts a great importance on his wingers, and gives Young a chance to show he has a future at Old Trafford

Ann Arbor

Behind the scenes, there have been a few jokes to test Ashley Young’s sense of humour in recent days. “About this Tom Daley business…” he was asked by one of the non-playing members of Manchester United’s entourage – a reference to the dying swan impressions Young has given on and off, over the past few years, when anyone had the temerity to tackle him inside the penalty area.

The 29-year-old does not give the impression of having a great ability to laugh at himself but has some grounds for satisfaction. His United career seemed to be heading for obscurity, with the controversies of his simulations early in the David Moyes era, preceding a poor last season.

But as United prepare to head home from the United States tour this week, Young has emerged as one of the unexpected winners of the fortnight: a player whom manager Louis van Gaal sees as a good fit for his new 3-4-1-2 system.

He fits it because, as Van Gaal views things, he can attack and defend to the level required for one of his wing backs. And he can also do it on both wings. Van Gaal, whose side play Real Madrid before a crowd of close on 110,000 here tonight, adores that kind  of versatility.

 

You might say that he is a manager more interested in players who can fit his system than he is in players. Though United are aware of Argentine Angel di Maria’s availability at Real Madrid, Young would arguably be more valuable to the Dutchman because he is more likely to defend with vigour. “I don’t need the 11 best. I need the best 11,” Van Gaal once said. The wingers have a huge amount of work to do and a huge responsibility in this new system. With one of the three central defenders licensed to play deep in opposition territory – Jonny Evans was closer to Wayne Rooney than to Chris Smalling for periods against Internazionale in midweek – these wide flankers must be able to hurtle back to defend.

And yet they must have the capacity to probe defences and threaten. A glorified full-back with a good cross is just not enough. We have not seen much of Young the defender before and he has only played wing-back on one other occasion in an 11-year professional career but the signs are good, insofar as a pre-season tour can tell us anything.

Read more: Ronaldo hints at United return
Ronaldo could return from injury against United
Five things we've learnt about Van Gaal's United

“Ashley Young is a winger, but he is another type who can play wing-back and he did very well against Roma,” Van Gaal said before the Internazionale game, in which he switched flanks at half time, threatening and probing more in the second half. “He can play left and right side, but we shall see.”

All things in perspective. A useful few weeks has not turned Young into the soul of expression. He did not seem too keen to be asked to talk in the post-match mixed zone after United had won on penalties. “It’s been good to play in the different positions,” he said. “I can play in both wing-back positions and if the manager calls on me to do something I’ve got every confidence in myself.”

It will be a different proposition when the season starts. Inter were so unambitious, one wondered why they had travelled halfway around the world to play here. But Young has grounds for optimism. “All people have a talent,” runs one of Van Gaal’s maxims. “But they often do not know which.”

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific
In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

Dame Colette Bowe - interview
When do the creative juices dry up?

When do the creative juices dry up?

David Lodge thinks he knows
The 'Cher moment' happening across fashion just now

Fashion's Cher moment

Ageing beauty will always be more classy than all that booty
Thousands of teenage girls enduring debilitating illnesses after routine school cancer vaccination

Health fears over school cancer jab

Shock new Freedom of Information figures show how thousands of girls have suffered serious symptoms after routine HPV injection
Fifa President Sepp Blatter warns his opponents: 'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

Fifa president Sepp Blatter issues defiant warning to opponents
Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report

Weather warning

Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report
LSD: Speaking to volunteer users of the drug as trials get underway to see if it cures depression and addiction

High hopes for LSD

Meet the volunteer users helping to see if it cures depression and addiction
German soldier who died fighting for UK in Battle of Waterloo should be removed from museum display and given dignified funeral, say historians

Saving Private Brandt

A Belgian museum's display of the skeleton of a soldier killed at Waterloo prompts calls for him to be given a dignified funeral