Danny Welbeck had failed to score for Arsenal in 2015, so it came with some shock to see him start against his former club in Monday night's FA Cup quarter-final tie.
You can imagine the conversations between Welbeck and Arsene Wenger leading up to that night. The 23-year-old is renowned for working hard on the pitch, but he would have committed to running himself ragged to prove a point against Louis van Gaal.
The Manchester United manager was the main instigator in Welbeck's exit from Old Trafford. He was not good enough for the Red Devils, but too good to accept a transfer to a club outside of Champions League contention.
While Tottenham were interested, it was clear Manchester United would have to sell Welbeck to Arsenal or nothing. They could have kept him on the bench instead; the Premier League's richest club would have coped without the £16 million Arsenal paid to sign him.
But that would have been a much greater disrespect to their treasured academy product. Allowing him to leave was not about generating funds, but giving him the best chance to fulfill his potential.
The wrong type of striker
Manchester United needed a world-class striker and Welbeck is certainly not that. They signed Radamel Falcao, who was, of course, considered to be world-class when he arrived. A deadly finisher was crucial for United's success this season.
They don't have the options of their Premier League rivals. Goals come from all over the pitch for Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester City, but the Red Devils were embarking on a mission to install a 3-5-2 formation reliant on strikers finishing their chances.
The strange formation, which has since failed to improve United's fortunes doesn't allow, for anyone other than the front pair to score a significant amount of goals. If the strikers score lots then there is no problem. If they miss chances, there is no advanced wingers to pick up the slack.
A good reason
Finishing chances was not Welbeck's forte. His poor conversion rate was cited as the main reason Van Gaal let him go.
Van Gaal said last September: "When you ask about Danny Welbeck, he was here since the age of nine and after Sunderland (on loan) he played three seasons at United but he doesn’t have the record of Van Persie or Rooney and that’s the standard. That’s why we let him go."
That's fair enough. It was only a poor back pass that allowed Welbeck to score the winning goal and wheeling away as if his long battle for justice had been served. He had been generally ineffective for the rest of the game.
Arsenal's fitting style
But Wenger has built a team that does not rely on a striker scoring 25 goals a season. Arsenal's system, in fact, is quite the opposite. Welbeck is required to make space for for two inside forwards on either side of him. Hard work, strength and sacrifice are required, not flawless finishing.
That is why it remains a fact that Manchester United were right to sell him. Whatever player he becomes at Arsenal, where his role as a front man is entirely different as it would be for Manchester United, he would not have done the same at Old Trafford.
Manchester United could have kept him and given him snippets of playing time, but that would have been a disservice to his talent. Instead they let him leave the nest where he has the chance to become a better player than he ever could have become under the stewardship of Van Gaal.
Would Manchester United fans prefer to see Danny Welbeck flourishing for a rival club or rotting in your reserves? Give us your thoughts in the comment box below!
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