Earlier this week I wrote a big, bad January transfer window preview. There were nerdy details — stats, video breakdowns — with a look at how each player may potentially fit. Nowhere in there was the name Ashley Young... because he is Ashley Young, and this is Inter Milan, gunning for their first Serie A title in a decade.
But it’s on: reports from every reputable outlet suggest the 34-year-old Young has agreed a pre-contract agreement, with United’s captain now trying to force through a January move.
Young on a six-month loan deal makes some sense. He’s experienced. He can cover both flanks. His set piece delivery has been fantastic in the past, but has dipped in recent years.
Young beyond that? Nonsense.
What use is a 36-year-old, washed, former winger turned wingback, even if Italian football is slower than the breakneck Premier League.
The feeling here has to be that Conte isn’t sticking around longer than three years. Four at a push.
I’ve written about that a bunch, and how this transfer window will tell us an awful lot about his timetable. He wants to win now. Young can help do that in 2020. But beyond? Probably not.
Young has been an effective player throughout this goofy United season. That should offer some encouragement. Although he’s failed to register an assist, he currently sits on 1.67 expected assists, right around his typical mark of four. More importantly, he’s averaging 1.79 passes per game that lead to a shot, a career high.
So while it’s an odd one, it makes some sense: a devalued, cheap player, who’s playing better than his reputation, offers versatility, and brings some veteran leadership — he also, for what it’s worth, has a close bond with Romelu Lukaku.
Adding Young would be an uninspiring signing, particularly given some of the names that have been floated around this window. I don’t love it, but I get it. In a wingback-based system, his declining defensive nous and mobility will be less exposed. He will free to get forward to provide those long, arcing deliveries that have come to symbolise his game — often delivered from deep.
Conte can certainly squeeze some performances out of him. And unshackled from the glare of a combusting United, he may play with more grace and freedom and fight. Opting out of training to force through a move isn’t great, but it is modern football.
Adding Young for the rest of this season (with a tack on year) is decent business. Adding him in the summer for a year or two would be no bueno.