There’s no question that since the departure of fan favourite Patrice Evra in 2014, Manchester United have struggled to definitively nail down a starter in the left fullback position.
Marcus Rojo, Luke Shaw, Matteo Darmian and Daley Blind have all vied to secure themselves as vital members of the United rearguard down the left flank.
To date, all have come up short of the lofty standards set at one of the world’s largest clubs.
However, Mourinho may have finally found a solution in the shape of Premier League throwback Ashley Young.
Antonio Valencia was rested for United’s first Champions League group match at home to FC Basel, and Mourinho attempting to match Antonio’s energetic output drafted in Young.
His faith was quickly repaid, as 34 minutes in Young wrong footed two markers and curled a brilliant out-swinging cross onto the head of Marouane Fellaini; making it 2-0 and effectively ending the contest.
Such a stellar performance during Young’s first appearance of the season prompted Mourinho to chance his arm, starting Young at left-back away at United’s recent bogey ground St Mary’s.
The game proved to be United’s first big test of the season, and was entirely different from the previous four goal routs. It was a game of few chances, and the definitive one was again supplied by the Englishman.
20 minutes in Young completed a nice passing move, managing to get half a yard on Ryan Bertrand to curl an in-swinging cross onto the head of Romelu Lukaku.
Lukaku finished the second time of asking – with Fraser Forster failing to push the initial header wide of the front stick.
After providing such a pivotal moment, United edged out the performance with a steely defensive display, in which Young again was steady and determined.
Speaking to Premier League Daily, Young revealed: “Its a transition, playing at the back. I believe I’ve got the capabilities and quality to play there. I have the footballing brain to be able to work out where I need to be, and where I don’t need to be.”
This is particularly important to Jose Mourinho and is the main reason Luke Shaw has yet to be given an extended run in the first team, coupled with injuries.
Although gifted with the physical attributes, Mourinho isn’t content with having to “think for him” on the touchline, and the experience of Ashley Young rectifies that problem.
Mourinho questioned prior to the game, said: “Are you asking if he plays on Saturday? (Luke Shaw) No, he isn’t. He has to work. He has to improve.”
Young has the attacking edge over compatriot Matteo Darmian, who provides little in the attacking third, often failing to beat his counterpart in offensive areas.
He certainly possesses the physical edge over ‘Utility Man’ Daley Blind, who offers intelligence and more a focus on general control.
Its obviously early, but 167 games in for the Red Devils Young could ironically become the final ingredient to bolster a youthful, new look United to that elusive 21st Premier League title.