Young and Downing to follow Houllier out of the door at Villa
While talks continued yesterday over a resolution to end Gérard Houllier's short reign as Aston Villa manager, both Ashley Young and Stewart Downing signalled that they will be leaving the club this summer.
Houllier, who has not managed the team since he was diagnosed with another aortic dissection in April, is understood to be in talks over a severance deal with the club that is expected to be resolved this week. The Fulham manager Mark Hughes is thought to be the chosen successor but the delay in appointing him means that he will cost about £2 million in compensation to leave his contract with Fulham.
In the meantime, Steve McClaren, the former England manager and currently out of work, is understood to be another possibility for Villa if a deal for Hughes falls through. However, the Welshman is the club's first choice and would have liked the job when Martin O'Neill quit in September – but had already agreed a deal with Fulham then.
A deal for Young to Manchester United for £15m is thought to be all but done. He has just one year left on his contract and Villa have no choice but to sell. Yesterday, Young, on duty with England ahead of Saturday's Euro 2012 qualifier against Switzerland, all but confirmed his ambitions lay beyond Villa.
Asked if he enjoyed watching United in the Champions League final against Barcelona, Young said: "I did find myself sat there thinking 'I wish I was out there'. I think it is great for the neutral to watch such a great game.
"[On Villa] I've always said I am going to talk to the chairman, talk to the manager after this game. That's where we are. I've always said the same thing. I have given 100 per cent in every game I have played for Aston Villa.
"It's always nice to have speculation. But I just have to concentrate and focus on England's game and prepare as I always do for a game. We know it's going to be a massive game."
As for Downing, who has been linked with Arsenal and Liverpool, there is no chance, he said yesterday, that he would be signing a new contract at Villa. He has two years left on his existing deal and, like Young, the likelihood is that he will leave in the summer.
Downing said: "I'm not sure [about my future]. We had the meeting with the club, we expressed our feelings and they said to me they're going to improve the team and the squad. So, as far as I know, I'll still be reporting back for pre-season because I've heard nothing.
"If I don't move, I'll get on with the job as normal. I'll do my best and give 100 per cent. It's up to their fans and their opinions of me. If they want to be loud and clear with what they think of me then that's fine. I'll still give my best because I'm employed to do so.
"It's my ambition to play in the Champions League and I would like to do that at some stage in my career. It does help if you're playing at the highest level. I'm not sure if it influences Fabio's decision if you're in the Champions League or if you're not. I think the main thing for him is that you're playing well."
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