Ashley Young admits he “thrives on pressure” and would relish being England’s middle man if given that role by Roy Hodgson in tonight’s Euro 2012 opener with France in Donetsk.
Young enjoyed a successful first season at Manchester United - despite losing the Barclays Premier League title to local rivals City - and has become a key player with England.
Now he is looking to make an impact in Poland and Ukraine and, although a capable performer on both flanks, has impressed as the second striker in recent internationals.
Young said: “I think I’m always confident in my own ability. This season ended in a disappointing way but, on a personal level, I enjoyed it and thought I did well.
“When you play for Manchester United, the pressure’s on you every week. Everyone wants to beat United, the biggest team in the world.
“But, when it comes to playing with pressure, I thrive on pressure. I enjoy having a challenge.
“I remember the manager, Sir Alex (Ferguson), saying to me when I first joined United, that it would be a challenge for me coming here.
“I’ve played a whole season now and now I’m looking forward to the first Euro game.”
Young is content to play the “I’ll play wherever the manager wants me” line but admits he revels in the more central position.
He said: “I enjoy playing that position. I played there for a whole season at Aston Villa and enjoyed it then.
“I’ve played that role in the last few games, especially with the players in this squad who can find you in those positions in between the opposition midfield and the defenders.
“That’s a nightmare for defenders to defend. I enjoy being able to create in that position. It’s even better when I get on the scoresheet.
“I’m a player who wants to be creative, wants to get on the ball, wants to play. That’s exactly what I’m looking to do on against France.”
Young’s current status is a far cry from when released as a teenager by Watford a decade ago, but also is an indication of his determination to recover from such setbacks.
He said: “I can relate to kids when they’re told they’re not getting a YTS (apprenticeship) with a club. It’s like a sucker punch.
“It’s obviously disheartening, but you have to pick yourself up from there. I managed to do that and, from that point, I’ve never looked back.”
The former Villa Park player knows how the kudos of a player can soar if they shine in a tournament like Euro 2012.
He said: “It’s an opportunity for me to establish myself even further in the team, in the starting line-up.
“I’m full of confidence and just excited about getting to the France game.
“Hopefully I’ll go out there and play the way I have been.”