Ashley Young’s 2017/18 campaign has not gone quietly. Always in the headlines, the England international has enjoyed a renaissance in the famous red shirt, and week in week out produces consistent performances which have gained him the trust of Jose Mourinho.
At first filling in for the injured and out of form Luke Shaw at left-back, Young starred in the role, proving pivotal in matches at home to Tottenham Hotspur and Brighton and Hove Albion, and away to Arsenal at The Emirates. Putting in a shift has never been a problem.
When United triumphed 2-1 at the Hawthorns last month Gary Neville made the undeniable point that seven of the starters for the Red Devils that day were still at the club under the stewardship of Sir Alex Ferguson over six years ago.
And a majority have reinvented themselves into new positions. Antonio Valencia has moved from right-wing to right-back, while Phil Jones has departed a part-time role in central midfield to a full-time role at centre-back. Young himself has moved from midfield to defence.
So there is no doubt that experience tells. Since his days at Aston Villa and Watford, Young has always proved on countless occasions that he is an excellent crosser of the ball, with whipped deliveries into the Southampton box causing the away defence trouble.
The major problem with that tactic though is that it can become too predictable, and once the opposition works out the familiar route of the danger they can equip themselves with the fitting defences to combat that.
It was no surprise then that Mauricio Pellegrino employed his back-line to press quickly on Young and Luke Shaw, to make sure that neither could continue to barrage the Saints area with crosses.
As soon as United found that their main supply line on either wing had been partially cut off, Young’s frustration got the better of him, elbowing Dusan Tadic from a set piece. He now faces an FA charge and a subsequent three-match ban.
Yet he was probably United’s best player against a side struggling for form, and one battered by Spurs 5-2 just a few days before.
Efficient? No. Effective? No. Man of the match? Yes. In truth, it was the kind of match where the person who was least worst for United deserved the award. They will hope the new year brings the hope that the supporters need.