The forward, who scored a dramatic late winner to beat fellow title hopefuls Leicester City 2-1 on Sunday afternoon, was released by the Dutchman last season in order to make way for Radamel Falcao.
Although he has struggled with injuries this season, Welbeck’s late intervention is proof that the 25-year-old is ready to stand up and be counted as the campaign enters its crucial final months.
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Though he had never quite managed to force his way into the United starting line-up due to the presence of Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie, Welbeck was a popular figure amongst players and supporters alike.
Yet he was axed to accommodate Falcao, who was meant to be the striker to take the club back to the top but, like fellow superstar signing Angel Di Maria, the Columbian was to never find his best form during his stint at Old Trafford.
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Welbeck hardly set the Premier League alight during his first year at the Emirates Stadium, but exacted sweet revenge on Van Gaal by scoring the winner when the teams met in the quarter-finals of the FA Cup last season.
With Olivier Giroud and Mesut Ozil driving Arsenal’s bid to win the league title for the first time since 2004, Welbeck has become a forgotten man since sustaining a knee injury in the summer that has plagued his second term in north London.
Yet his winner against Leicester was the biggest of his career to date and ensured that the Gunners trail Claudio Ranieri’s side by just two points at the summit with 12 games of the campaign remaining.
It also came just one day after United were stunned 2-1 by Sam Allardyce’s relegation-threatened Sunderland, in a defeat that has served to increase the pressure on Van Gaal amid talk of Jose Mourinho joining in the summer.
If ever there was motivation for Welbeck to prove Van Gaal wrong, it would be to fire Arsenal to the trophy that continues to evade them with each passing year.
While Anthony Martial has been a big hit at Old Trafford – and Wayne Rooney remains capable of performing – the harsh truth is that the likes of James Wilson, Will Keane and Memphis Depay are not up to scratch.
It would also be particularly sweet if Van Gaal is axed, and the Dutchman’s name will be tarnished on Mancunian soil even further if Welbeck delivers the prize for Arsenal.
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