The £37 million Aston Villa got for Young and Downing looks better by the day

Young Villa Corner

Aston Villa sold Ashley Young and Stewart Downing for £37 million to Manchester United and Liverpool 15 months ago. Both are regular sources of frustrations for both sets of supporters of their new clubs.

Signing Ashley Young and Stewart Downing for roughly the price of an Andy Carroll may sound like a bargain, but when you remember that Liverpool paid a record £35 million for the Geordie, it doesn't sound so clever.

While Newcastle spent the money wisely on players like Yohan Cabaye and Papiss Cisse and climbed to a fifth place finish in the table last season, Villa blew £9.5 million on flop Charles N'Zogbia and ended up embroiled in a relegation fight.

Both Newcastle and Villa are currently inhabiting the bottom half of the table, but from a business perspective, the £37 million the Midlands club received for Ashley Young (£17m) and Stewart Downing (£20m) looks an astounding piece of negotiating.

Ashley Young's contract was due to expire this year, so by selling him off in 2011 for £17 million Villa did very well.

He had a great start for United, scoring in his opening game against West Brom and netting two crackers against Arsenal in the 8-2 thrashing, but after a couple of minor injuries his form trailed off.

At Euro 2012 he was woeful for England, their most disappointing player along with fellow former Villain James Milner, and this season he has been a constant source of frustration.

He is yet to have a good game in a Red Devils shirt this season, playing incredibly poorly against Villa, QPR, West Ham and Norwich. His lack of impact has got supporters wondering if Nani isn't so bad after all - A player seemingly certainly on his way out with his own frustrating showings.

He clearly is a good player, he has shown that, but his inconsistency makes him infuriating - and viewed in the context of his £17 million price tag, the fee looks a steep one.

Stewart Downing on the other hand never stood a chance of living up to being the £20 million winger Liverpool need him to be. We all know the stat about delivering zero goals and zero assists in the Premier League last season, but it can't be ignored.

It says everything about his lack of attacking cutting edge that Brendan Rodgers considers left-back Jose Enrique to be a better option. Downing has been tried as a defender, but as shown against Spurs in midweek he is not the answer there either.

The deal certainly ranks up there with Carroll as being a contender for Kenny Dalglish's biggest dud buy, and from Villa's perspective it was a great one as Downing only really had a good six months or so at the club where he played reasonably well.

So as Young and Downing struggle to win over their fans, and in Downing's case an exit appears likely, Aston Villa slink into further mediocrity - They are currently down in 17th place. What has gone wrong?

The blame lies largely with Alex McLeish. He was the wrong manager at the wrong time. Villa had a £37 million windfall and he blew the opportunity to rebuild the team.

N'Zogbia has been a bust, another £4 million was wasted on Alan Hutton, and the rest just hasn't been invested. Perhaps Randy Lerner just needed the sales to cover his big investment in Darren Bent.

Villa really couldn't have done better out of it off the pitch, and keeping Young who wanted out and would have been prepared to walk on a free a year later wasn't an option.

But as the club endure their own struggles and attempt to re-build to become the top 10 side they once were, they can at least take solace in that the players they let go a summer ago are hardly making them wish they were still playing their football at Villa Park.

Can Young be a success at United? Is it too late for Downing at Anfield? And what next for Villa?

image: © nicksarebi

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