We’ve all heard the jokes, “They should name a street in London after the Liverpool winger- they can house useless, overpaid people in there.” “Why did Stewart Downing cross the road? He didn’t, he can’t even cross that.” I could go on but I won’t as like Morrissey once noted: “that joke isn’t funny anymore.” In fact it’s downright depressing that Stewart Downing’s record for Liverpool last season, was actually superior to any of United’s wingers. The same Stewart Downing who’s been chastised by practically every fan outside Liverpool and more than a few inside, has more assists and goals than the likes of Ashley Young, Antonio Valencia, Nani and Danny Welbeck- in fact he has the same amount of league goals as all four put together. The saving grace – if you can call it that- for Valencia is he managed an equal number of assists as his Liverpool counterpart.
It’s not the end of the world of course as United lifted the Premier League crown and all the aforementioned players were a part of that success, but the fact our winger’s records pale in comparison to the likes of Downing’s speaks volumes. I’m not for one minute suggesting Downing is a better player than Nani et al, but the mediocrity of our wingers last season cannot be denied. Ryan Giggs at the age of 39 was our best performer out wide which is as impressive as it is cringeworthy.
Wilfried Zaha has been signed of course and there’s no doubt he’ll have a big part to play in the campaign, but we simply cannot be relying upon a 20 year-old making his Premier League debut as the man to spearhead our wing play. Shinji Kagawa has been used on the left flank of course, but he’s far more suited in the hole so to speak as the “look at me aren’t I clever” Jurgen Klopp reminded us all a few weeks ago, during his vomit inducing interview about crying when he saw how Sir Alex had deployed the Japanese maestro.
Downing may be a figure of ridicule for many fans but the fact United, who’ve always relied upon our wing play, cannot muster an equal to his record isn’t a joke. It’s time for the wide men to step up next season before it’s the likes of Ashley Young who everyone’s laughing at.