Ashley Young says he will “thrive under the pressure” of being handed the England playmaker’s role at UEFA EURO 2012.
The 26-year-old is generally employed on the left for Manchester United FC but has shone in a more central role for his country of late. He scored the winner against Norway and teed up club colleague Danny Welbeck to net the decider against Belgium as England won each of their pre-tournament friendlies 1-0.
“I’ve enjoyed it a lot,” Young told UEFA.com. “It’s a lot of pressure to be put on me, but I enjoy the challenge. Wherever I’m called upon to play, I’m going to go out and give 110% as I always do, especially when I put on an England shirt. It’s a proud moment for me.”
Since missing out on the FIFA World Cup in South Africa two years ago, Young’s performances have not only earned him a high-profile move to Old Trafford but also made him an integral member of the England set-up. The 21-time international has been identified as the player who could hold his side’s creative key in Poland and Ukraine, especially in the absence of Wayne Rooney, suspended from England’s first two games of the tournament.
“He’s a world-class player,” said Young, underlining Rooney’s importance on the field but stressing that the mere presence of his United colleague in the camp was enough to give the rest of the squad a lift. “He’s a great character to have in the squad and we’ve got a great team spirit here. Everybody’s thinking in the right way and I think if you’ve got that off the pitch, you can take it onto the pitch and get the right results.”
Having watched the opening set of fixtures, Young is now eager to gain his first experience of playing at a major international tournament against France in Donetsk on Monday. “I watched the games yesterday, I’m excited and I just want our games to kick off now,” he said.
England face a baptism of fire in Roy Hodgson’s first competitive match in charge against a France side unbeaten in 21 matches. However, based on the two solid performances against Norway and Belgium, Young is confident England can get off to a positive start.
“I think if you look at the organisation of the team, we’re defending from the front, right the way through to the back,” Young said. “I think [Roy] has set up many of the teams he’s worked for like that and it’s important for us to be able to do that too. If we play in the right manner and go out and give 100% like we have done in the last two games, we’ll be able get the right result.”