Aston Villa manager Gerard Houllier has insisted he has no intention of letting prized asset Ashley Young leave the club.
“I can confirm that Ashley is a highly rated player and highly liked by everyone at Aston Villa. No way is he going to leave,” Houllier said at a press conference ahead of Tuesday’s trip to Manchester United.
“No official bid has been made,” he added about the England winger, who was signed from Watford for 10 million pounds four years ago by former manager Martin O’Neill and could be worth at least double that fee in the current market.
The Villa boss does not want Young to leave the club but the only stated last Friday that midfielder Stephen Ireland was going nowhere before the Irishman undertook a medical at Newcastle United ahead of a potential loan deal.
Houllier said he expected a lot from loan signing Michael Bradley, who joined from Bundesliga club Borussia Moenchengladbach on Monday.
The son of USA manager Bob Bradley, Villa’s new man is a box-to-box midfielder that represented his country at the 2010 World Cup.
“We’ve got to prepare for the future and Michael is 23 and a very hard-working midfielder who can score goals,” said Houllier.
The Frenchman sees the Premier League clash with Manchester United as a test after their recent improvement, which has seen them take seven points from their past three games.
“We are not the favourites, we are the underdogs,” Houllier said.
“But it will be an exciting challenge; it is always a good game against Manchester United. I loved the first game when we played them at home (on November 12, ending 2-2).”
“I thought that day I realised they had a good chance of winning the title. Don’t forget they were not top of the table at the time.”
“But when you come back from 0-0 to 2-2 and the way they came back shows some experience and a real desire to win things. I was impressed by the team.”
Houllier has put Villa’s progress down to clearing players out of a busy treatment room.
He said: “It came from the fact that some senior players came back and came back into form; we worked harder physically to a stage where we can score goals in the last stage of the game or hold a result.”
“We are more solid physically and mentally – that is a very important thing. There is probably better understanding from the manager and what he thinks about his players.”
Houllier’s main injury doubt for Tuesday’s trip to Old Trafford is striker Gabby Agbonlahor, who is nursing a hamstring complaint.