Danny Welbeck's name is synonymous amongst Manchester United fans. Seen as one of their own, he is revered by many. Neutral fans have not taken to him as much as United fans, but all is to be expected. Among England fans, he is our "Marmite" player, you either love him or you hate him. At United, he is our "Mr Manchester".
Born and raised in Longsight, United has been Welbeck's club from Day 1. It is refreshing to have someone in the club where United is everything to a player. We have been gifted with the Class of '92, but Welbeck is the first player to have the club sewn to his heart since this group of players.
This isn't an article highlighting mine, and many United fans', love-in with Welbeck, but I do aim to suggest why United do not need to revert to this (mini-) crisis by spending more millions on strikers that do not fit the United mould (note here Dimitar Berbatov, Diego Forlan) while over-looking a current international who has already realised his potential.
What is there to love about Welbeck? Well to start with, he is Manchester United through and through. You can see the pain in his face every time all is not well at Old Trafford. He bleeds red, and plays with a real passion for United. He has played for United since the age of 11. United are in his DNA.
What does Welbeck offer? Good football. What United have lacked more than anything this season is any sort of mobility, pace and ingenuity. Welbeck has all three of these in abundance. Too many times this year, United have been too pedestrian and slow, with no pressure on the opposing team, while sitting ridiculously deep, inviting pressure. On top of this, we have had no out-ball at the same time.
Welbeck has improved this season in his all-round game and more importantly, his goal tally. Not only that, but he has looked a real threat. Running the channels stretches teams. It also creates opportunities for team-mates to find space. This was epitomised in his cameo late on in the victory at West Brom. He instantly created space and options for the players in behind, notably Juan Mata and Wayne Rooney. His finish also highlighting his new assurances in front of goal.
On top of being an in-form striker, his link-up play is superb. 2011/2012 was Welbeck's breakthrough season at United, seeing him oust Javier Hernandez and Berbatov and combining to great effect with Rooney. Tom Cleverley also has spoken publicly of his link-up capabilities with Welbeck, having spent many years in both the youth team and the first team set-up together.
What doesn't he offer? Most people will instantly mention his lack of goals, which is true to a degree. Strikers are judged on goals, before all else. For Manchester United, Welbeck's statistics do not suggest a world-class striker, with only 29 goals in 128 appearances. This represents a goal every 4.4 games, which is hardly top notch.
However, it must be noted that 36 of these appearances he has been used as a substitute. His worst season in front of goal, 2012/2013, resulted in two goals. Paltry reply for a striker? Well, it would be difficult to have called Welbeck a striker throughout the course of the season.
With the arrival of Robin van Persie, Welbeck had been pushed wide, both for his industrious work ethic and his ability to attract defenders, opening space for either Van Persie or Rooney through the centre. This season is still two months from ending, and Welbeck has already matched his previous League best of nine goals. Combining England strikes, he is two goals away from beating this statistic. Source of opportunism one would assume.
Is he needed? A resounding yes for this question. Young, intelligent, flexible, quick, strong, just a few words to describe Welbeck. His goal ratio this season alone is impressive in a poor United team, arguably it's worst in Welbeck's life. He links up well with the other strikers, but has added a steeliness in his persona in front of goal.
My main point here however, is to take umbrage in the emergence of Daniel Sturridge down the East Lancs Road at Liverpool. Welbeck had become an England regular before Sturridge, but if this season is anything to go by, Sturridge will be starting for England against Italy in the World Cup come June. Sturridge's career has taken a while to blossom, beginning at Manchester City before moving south to Chelsea.
At City, he was sparsely used and could not breakthrough to the first team. This resulted in a move to Chelsea, where he claimed he was Chelsea's best striker, no doubt in a squad that included Didier Drogba and Fernando Torres (recently purchased for a British record £50m). At Chelsea though, Sturridge had to adopt to a left sided role in a front-three, which is akin to Welbeck during the 12/13 season at United.
Taking from this is his move to Liverpool however, and how in the 15 months since his transfer, scoring a very impressive 32 goals. Brendan Rodgers has transformed Sturridge, utilising him in a way that he feels comfortable, and the opportunity to express himself on the pitch. This could be the way to let loose with Welbeck. A career blighted by competition and being played out of position can work, but can also hinder career prospects.
Now is surely the time to let Welbeck take the chance to do what most United fans believe he can. Let's put Welbeck up top, see what he can do with players like Rooney, Mata, Adnan Januzaj and Shinji Kagawa in behind. Let's push him in similar vein to how Rodgers has with Sturridge, and let both Welbeck and United reap the benefits.
Danny Welbeck can become the Stretford End's new King.
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