Arsenal striker Danny Welbeck has warned former Manchester United teammate Rio Ferdinand that he is desperate to get one over on him when the Gunners face Queens Park Rangers at Loftus Road this evening.
The England international admitted in an interview that his friendship with the current QPR defender makes him even more determined to have the last laugh tonight; while he also expects some banter with the 36-year-old.
Speaking to Arsenal’s official website, Welbeck confessed that Ferdinand has been an important figure in his development and is excited by the prospect of going head-to-head with the former United hero.
Welbeck determined to beat Ferdinand's QPR
“Me and Rio are pretty close,” the 24-year-old commented. “I still speak to him today. Coming through United as a young kid, Rio was there for me a lot giving advice, as were all the other older players. It will be good to play against him in a competitive game.
“You don’t really need any extra motivation - you always want to go out and get that win, beat your man, and you always want to get the better of whoever you’re playing against.
“However, having that relationship on the pitch with somebody you know quite well means you want to beat them even more and sometimes there’s a bit of banter on the pitch as well.”
Welbeck facing uncertain future at Arsenal?
Welbeck played alongside Ferdinand at Old Trafford for six years before the latter left the club on a free transfer last summer.
Welbeck himself would then leave Manchester United months later after being informed by Louis van Gaal that he would find himself behind Robin van Persie, Radamel Falcao, Wayne Rooney and James Wilson in the pecking order.
It’s been a reasonable start to life at the Emirates Stadium for Welbeck, who has scored seven goals in 20 appearances for the Gunners this season.
However, the intense competition for forward places at Arsenal means Welbeck will need to score goals on a more consistent basis to nail down his favoured centre-forward role.
One of the reasons Welbeck agreed to leave United was due to the frustration of being played out of position on the wing, but the recent form of Olivier Giroud means his previous appearance in his favourite role came back in early December against Southampton.
Since then Wenger has either used Giroud or Alexis Sanchez as his most advanced forward, with Welbeck occupying one of three positions behind the central striker.
Welbeck: QPR game will be tough
Welbeck may be feeling a little anxious about his long-term future at Arsenal, but for the meantime he is fully focused on helping the Gunners secure that all-important top-four finish.
Speaking ahead of tonight’s fixture, Welbeck added: “We know it’s going to be tough. QPR are going to come out at us and try to get the points that they need to stay in the Premier League but we’re still third in the Premier League and that’s something we want to build on to get further up.”
Van Gaal right to sell Welbeck - but only just
Because of the dismal form of Van Persie and Falcao this season, many Manchester United fans - who were disappointed to sell Welbeck sold to Arsenal in the first place - may feel Van Gaal made a mistake selling the Longsight-born striker last summer.
These thoughts were echoed by former Manchester United captain Gary Neville, who coaches Welbeck at international level, speaking on talkSPORT last week.
“I said at the time that I thought Danny Welbeck should have stayed at United,” the retired right-back stated. “I still believe that now.
“The idea that when you have a four-man strike-force, you need different types – it’s been proven in the last few months that Manchester United have needed a striker who will run in behind.”
Van Gaal may have felt Wilson, 19, was ready for that role - but the England Under-20 international is still developing and may require a season out on loan before he is ready to become a proper first-team option.
But while Welbeck would have been useful for Manchester United this season, the fact he isn’t the most clinical of strikers means Van Gaal probably - just about - made the right decision.
Was Van Gaal foolish to sell Danny Welbeck to Arsenal? Have your say in the comments below!