With Manchester United officially acquiring former Aston Villa Ashley Young for a £16M transfer fee (and almost twice that in wages), now's probably a good time to assess just how he fits into the system. Is he, as Gerard Houllier believed, best suited to be a second striker? Is he a winger, as he was used almost exclusively under Martin O'Neill, when Aston Villa were at their peak. Or is he a 'central winger', starting in the middle before moving out to create.
According to Gene Um at SB Nation's Manchester United blog the Busby Babe, the answer is all of them, and none of them. Young can perform at a high level in any forward role Sir Alex Ferguson might choose to deploy him, making his versatility his key asset. Expect the 25-year-old to be the first man off the bench for most of the attacking positions in the side for United, assuming he doesn't become a starting winger in place of Nani or Antonio Valencia:
Young is a terrific footballer but his value lies in his versatility. If Rooney were to go down with injury, Young would be a suitable replacement in the role behind Chicharito or Dimitar Berbatov. Every winger last season became injured at some point so opportunities will certainly be there this season for Young to stake a claim as a first-choice selection for Fergie on the flanks. It would even be worth experimenting to see how Young might operate as the attacking midfielder in a 3-man central midfield when Fergie uses a 4-3-3/4-5-1 shape. I anticipate this to be a terrific buy and not only for his obvious talent - but also for the tactical versatility he provides.
It'll be interesting to see if Sir Alex Ferguson has the same sort of thing in mind for Young as Gene does. With his high wages, he may be expecting something more than a super-utility player out of his latest purchase - but we'll just have to wait and see.