As soon as Alex McLeish barged his way through the crowd of fans at Aston Villa still foaming at the mouth over his appointment, he knew already that the game was up for at least one of his players.
“It’s not confirmed yet, but it does seem likely,” he told Talksport. “In my humble opinion it will be very difficult (to keep hold of him).”
Ashley Young, the Villa winger who has done so much to endear himself to fans of the midlands club and beyond, will make the short journey from Birmingham to Manchester as he edges closer to a move to the reigning Premier League champions, Manchester United.
There is no doubting the progress Young has made over the past season. When he emerged in the Villa team alongside fellow “hot prospect”, he looked to have something about him; he was quick, his final ball was acceptable and he frightened a few Premier League defenders – but there was only an inkling of what was to come.
Perhaps his defining performance came, not when he run a team ragged single-handedly nor when he bagged a spectacular hat-trick – but when he wasn’t even on the pitch.
England were struggling badly against Switzerland, and at 2-0 down the Wembely crowd let out their frustrations.
“Where is Young?” was the question on most people’s lips as they watched an insipid England limp to a half time deficit.
Soon the former Watford youngster was to appear and haul England back into the game, finding the back of the net on the way. And so the transformation was complete. He was on the lips and minds of the watching English public as the saviour of the national team in need of help.
What is remarkable about Young is the manner in which he has changed his game and learned during his time in the Premier League.
No longer an out and out winger with chalk on his boot’s, he was more often than not the central pivot for most good things Villa did last year, picking up the ball and threading it through the middle while his relationship with Darren Bent proved particularly fruitful.
More creative and more of a complete footballer than most gave him credit for, he now has the opportunity to work with Sir Alex Ferguson at Man Utd and develop his game further – a frightening prospect for the Premier League next season.