Ahead of Saturday’s clash with his former club Aston Villa, Ashley Young has confirmed he now feels like a senior member of the Manchester United squad.
Ask any player who the chirpiest character is in the dressing room and, more often than not, they will suggest the bubbly left-sided star, who has worked hard to cement a place in Louis van Gaal’s first-team plans.
After trading the Midlands for Manchester in 2011, Young is perfectly at home at the club and exudes the sort of confidence that comes with being more comfortable in your surroundings. The influx of signings last summer changed the dynamics behind the scenes and the 29-year-old has clearly been instrumental in helping the new boys to bed in.
“I was looking around and thinking I was in the top six or seven who have been here the longest now,” Ashley told ManUtd.com. “Whereas I used to say I was a youngster, now I can only say that by my name!
“To be honest, a few of my team-mates have mentioned my name when they talk about characters and jokers and it’s always nice to hear that. You have got to have good team spirit and we have got that here. We always have done.
“There are people who like to mess about and do different things in the dressing room. There are big characters in the dressing room and everyone gets on with everybody else. The team spirit we have got here is brilliant.”
When asked if it takes time for a personality to shine through at a club, he replied: “That’s it. When I first came here, I knew a few of the lads from playing with them for
England but I didn’t really know what to expect. When you settle in properly at a club, your character starts to come out more and more. With me, I’m always there or thereabouts when there is any mucking about or things going on in the dressing room.”
Being a positive influence around the Aon Training Complex is, of course, only part of the package that comes with playing for United. For Young, it is the concept of the team that is at the forefront of his thinking as he discusses the evolution of the squad under van Gaal.
The departure of some charismatic leaders has inevitably allowed others to find their voice and the added responsibility is something he relishes, while appreciating it is a shared role along with his more experienced colleagues, including new skipper Wayne Rooney.
“When you’ve got Vida [Nemanja Vidic], Rio [Ferdinand] and [Patrice] Evra leaving, individuals who were not only big characters but captains, people have to step up and take over that mantle,” Young stated. “It has definitely happened. You give out more advice and try to help the youngsters along but it’s everybody’s job really. Everybody chips in.
“We’ve got one captain but, when we’re on the pitch, there are 11 captains and everyone wants to be pulling in the right direction and wanting to perform and do as we well as we can as a team. When you have got that on and off the pitch, it’s great.”