Ashley Young has been revitalised by Inter and prepares to face Shakhtar Donetsk in the Europa League semi-final. ‘Now I’m playing with a smile on my face.’
The clash kicks off on Monday at 20.00 UK time (19.00 GMT), with the winner going on to face Manchester United or Sevilla.
“You want to play teams that like attacking football, that basically you go toe-to-toe with, and whoever plays well on that day comes out on top. I think it’s going to be a very good game,” the former Manchester United full-back told UEFA.com.
“We saw them against Basel the other day, and they are a good team. They wouldn’t be in the semi-final if they weren’t. So everyone is relishing the opportunity to play against them, to test ourselves again.
“Obviously, that’s where we want to get to, the final, but we’re not thinking about any opponent or who we’re going to play against. Our concentration is on Shakhtar, that’s the next game. That’s where all our focus is.”
Young was a surprise signing for Inter in the January transfer window, but has made a big impact, contributing four goals and five assists in 23 competitive games.
“Obviously being in England all my life, it was a totally different change, but it was an experience that I jumped at. It was an opportunity for me to go and play regularly.
“For me, age is nothing but a number. When the opportunity arose to come to Inter, it was a no-brainer for me. I was like, ‘Get me on the plane, get me out there. Get me signed on the dotted line.’ I was just speaking to the manager and players that were here that I knew as well. It was a fantastic opportunity; a club that’s massive worldwide, one of the biggest teams in world football.
“And I wanted to be part of what the manager had spoken to me about, and obviously speaking to club officials higher up as well, the owners; it was an opportunity that I couldn’t miss.
“I don’t think it’s been challenging; I’m one of those people that can adapt to new styles, different ways of life. Like I said, it was going to be a totally new experience for me, and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it.
“Now I’m playing with a smile on my face, I’m enjoying the way things are going at the club. I think the only thing that I’m missing from back home is probably Mum’s cooking, whereas when I was at Manchester, she used to be able to send me food, so that’s the only difference.
“But the way of life out in Milan is unbelievable, the people, the food is exceptional. So I’m not complaining!”
Young was requested specifically by coach Antonio Conte, who is getting the best out of several former Premier League players at Inter.
“You can tell he’s a winner. He wants to win, and he demands that from all the players, a winning mentality. Everyone’s got that. Obviously, it’s more of a tactical league than I’ve been used to, but it’s one of those things you have to adapt to pretty quickly and I felt I have adapted to that.
“Playing the wing-back position, there’s a lot of running to do, getting forward, defending. But as the way that we play, you’re more on the front foot and playing as an attacker, and it’s felt like a new lease of life being able to get on the scoresheet and get assists.
“I’m used to that, but when I was back at United, I was more of an out-and-out defender, having to defend more. When you’re here, you’ve got a licence to get forward more than staying back.
“Everyone’s smiling, everyone’s happy. It’s obviously hard work, but it’s work that you enjoy doing when things pay off, and if we get to the final in this competition, it’ll be hard work definitely paying off.”
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