Home » Latest, Transfers » Liverpool lead race to sign Villa’s Ashley Young

Liverpool’s owner, Fenway Sports Group, is increasingly confident of following the imminent appointment of Kenny Dalglish as the club’s permanent manager by beating Manchester United to the signature of the Aston Villa forward Ashley Young.

Dalglish’s confirmation as the long-term successor to Roy Hodgson is a formality having taken the club from 12th in the Premier League to the brink of European qualification inside four months and is expected to be announced before the end of the season.

Several FSG officials, notably the principal owner, John W Henry, and Liverpool’s chairman, Tom Werner, have voiced their support for the 60-year-old Scot and backed him on the combined £57.8m purchases of Andy Carroll and Luis Suárez in January. They are now pursuing Young, another target of Dalglish and the director of football, Damien Comolli, and have emerged as favourites to sign the £15m-rated England international despite competition from United, the Premier League champions-elect.

Young enters the final year of his Villa contract this summer having rejected the offer of an improved deal, which contained a get-out clause in the region of £15m, at the start of this season. The 25-year-old insisted on delaying talks with Villa over a contract extension until this campaign had ended but his employers are privately resigned to losing the player four years after his £9.65m arrival from Watford.

United and Liverpool are vying for Young’s services but the prospect of a significant increase on his £65,000-a-week Villa salary at Anfield, plus more regular first-team football than he may receive at Old Trafford, is understood to have tilted the contest in Dalglish’s favour.

United are only one point away from overtaking Liverpool on 19 league titles and can guarantee Champions League football next term but, unlike their Anfield rivals, they are well-stocked on the left and right of midfield and in Young’s preferred position behind the lead striker. The chance to establish himself in a team with renewed momentum under Dalglish is believed to have tempted Young towards Liverpool.

Dalglish and Comolli are also keen on Young’s team-mate Stewart Downing, whose performances have eclipsed the Stevenage-born forward at Villa Park this season. Although Villa are loth to lose either player and have proved to be tough negotiators under Randy Lerner, as Liverpool and Manchester City can testify over their moves for Gareth Barry and James Milner respectively, Young’s contractual situation has left them little room for manoeuvre once a tempting bid arrives.

Young forms part of an ambitious spending programme planned by FSG for this summer, an added appeal for a player who has established himself in the England set-up, with Blackpool’s Charlie Adam still on Liverpool’s agenda following a thwarted move in January and a new central defender among the targets. Bolton’s Gary Cahill and Phil Jones of Blackburn are under consideration.

Enticing Young to Anfield, and away from Old Trafford, would be a further indication of Liverpool’s determination to offer a sterner challenge to Sir Alex Ferguson’s domination of the Premier League than they have managed for much of the past two decades.

Source: Guardian

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