Manchester United and Chelsea finished the calendar year with a goalless draw at Old Trafford, but the scoreline does not reveal the story behind the stalemate which was everything but boring or dull as the fans had expected it would turn out to be.
The unexpected turn of events in the ongoing Premier League season has put Manchester United and Chelsea out of the centre of attention, but the two English giants have nothing but their poor results and uninspiring performances to blame for it.
Perhaps seen as a turning point for both sides, the Monday encounter at Old Trafford proved to be a feisty affair and a closely contested clash which offered a lot of excitement for the curious crowd.
Manchester United have put in their finest performance of the season so far with Juan Mata and Anthony Martial hitting the woodwork twice. In addition, the Red Devils were denied in the second half by brilliant Thibaut Courtois, who had a fantastic game, just like his counterpart David de Gea.
Though Chelsea played without a conventional striker with Guus Hiddink deploying Mourinho’s formula with Eden Hazard upfront, The Blues were not defensive from the outset, but rather attack-oriented.
David de Gea was made to work hard to keep the clean sheet and was certainly one of the most outstanding performers in his team.
However, another Manchester United player has been particularly impressive against Chelsea – Ashley Young.
The 30-year-old England winger is the man of divided opinions and an aura of controversy surrounding him. His habits of overly theatrical on-pitch behaviour have earned him quite a reputation which will be hard to shake off.
The latest example of his unnecessary embarrassing antics came in the UEFA Champions League match against CSKA Moscow when Manchester United player took a dive in a bid to win his side a penalty kick.
Ashley Young once again received a heavy barrage of criticism for his underhanded tactics which put a shadow on his undisputed football qualities.
Looking a changed man, the experienced winger played a fantastic game against Chelsea exhibiting all of his talents during a goalless match at Old Trafford.
Dealt with plenty of selection problems, Manchester United manager Louis van Gall was once again forced to deploy the experienced winger as a right-back and will have been delighted with how Ashley Young responded to his duties.
He had a fine first half in which he imposed himself both in defence and in attack. The most notable moment was a superb tackle to dispossess Azpilicueta on the edge of a box following Chelsea’s dangerous counterattack.
Ashley Young covered a lot of space on the right touchline, running up and down to put himself in good position in attacks and help the backline selflessly during Chelsea’s advances.
We have seen somewhat quieter second half from the winger, like the rest of his team, but his overall performance was industrious throughout and his contribution was not left unnoticed.
Ashley Young has so far amassed the total of 13 Premier League appearances and has impressed with his average passing accuracy of 79%, best in his team, according to Squawka.
Standard performer in Manchester United’s last three matches, Ashley Young was made to work hard for his place in the starting line-up. The 30-year-old missed six games this season and had been carrying a minor injury early in December, when he was forced to sit out through West Ham, Wolfsburg and Bournemouth games respectively.
The latter match left him puzzled by absence from first team and Young was understood to have been surprised by his manager’s unpredictable management. However, he did not let his disappointment and bemusement leave him deterred in efforts to prove his worth and show true character when it was most needed.
Young returned to action against Norwich, Stoke and Chelsea, playing full 90 minutes in all three games and putting impressive displays in the process.
Despite the fact his team lost two of the last three matches, Ashley Young has been one of the brightest start in other lethargic team which faces a difficult schedule at the beginning of 2016. Manchester United are preparing to welcome Swansea City on 2nd January and are given the 1/2 odds to claim the win in their first game in the new calendar year.
Two games on the road are coming mid-January as the Red Devils are visiting Newcastle United and then Liverpool in the great English derby.
Upcoming Premier League streak will possibly define rest of the season for Manchester United and Ashley Young will have the chance to prove his worth and send the message to his critics with model professional behaviour that was at display against Chelsea.