Many Manchester United fans are in mourning today after Danny Welbeck - a popular figure at Old Trafford - was sold to Arsenal minutes before the transfer window closed. United boss Louis van Gaal, though, might have been better off selling Robin van Persie instead.
That not every Arsenal fan is over the moon about Welbeck’s arrival comes as little surprise. The England international is one of the most underrated forwards in the Premier League, with the potential to score between 15-20 goals every season given a sustained run as a centre-forward.
Arsenal fans might not know it yet, but Arsene Wenger may have unearthed the Gunners’ very own version of Daniel Sturridge.
Welbeck can flourish at Arsenal
Welbeck proved that he’s capable of scoring goals when played in his favoured position around Christmas time last season. David Moyes was forced to play the 23-year-old upfront after Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie were both sidelined through injury, and Welbeck responded by scoring six goals in as many Premier League matches.
He might need to work a little on his finishing, but the raw ingredients are all there. This is a striker with pace, strength, a superb work ethic and a knack of getting himself into the right positions inside the penalty area.
Welbeck earned cult status at Old Trafford not only because he was from Manchester - this was only a small part of the story - but also because the supporters could see this was a striker with the potential to lead United’s forward-line.
Sadly for them, Welbeck has now left the club, and will spent the next five seasons - at least - plying his trade for top-four rivals Arsenal.
Van Gaal has taken a huge gamble
Selling Welbeck to the Gunners is undoubtedly a massive gamble by Van Gaal, who bolstered his own attacking options on deadline day with the acquisition of Colombia international Radamel Falcao.
Now, not even the biggest Danny Welbeck fan would dare argue that the new Arsenal boy is in Falcao’s class - there’s patently a gulf in quality between the two players - but there’s no doubt that the former will significantly enhance the Gunners’ chances of finishing above United, particularly with Olivier Giroud out until January.
That Van Gaal agreed to sell Welbeck to Arsenal came as a surprise. After all, it was reported last month that the United manager had no desire to sell to a top-six Premier League side, for understandable reasons.
A move to Tottenham still would have broken that rule; a transfer to Arsenal just seems downright bizarre.
Selling Van Persie might have made more sense
Selling Van Persie to Arsenal probably would have been less of a risk, as strange as that may sound.
The Netherlands international is now in decline. Manchester United fans may be reluctant to acknowledge that fact, but the 31-year-old is no longer the player he was 18 months ago.
There’s a reason why Van Gaal, who we all know is a huge admirer of Van Persie, sanctioned the deal to bring Falcao to Old Trafford. And it’s hard to imagine Van Persie and United’s new signing playing in tandem together. They’re both out-and-out goalscorers who relish playing as the team’s most-advanced forward.
Van Persie was dreadfully disappointing last season. Fans will turn around and point to Moyes as being the man to blame for the Dutch striker’s poor campaign, but Van Persie himself must take responsibility for his poor performances.
He enjoyed a good World Cup, but his first two displays for Manchester United at the start of the 2014/15 campaign have been awful.
Van Persie is eight years older than Welbeck and much less versatile. The latter, even though he prefers to play as a centre-forward, proved during his spell at Old Trafford that he is more than capable of playing on the wing or even in the No. 10 role.
Against Real Madrid during the 2012/13 campaign, for example, Ferguson selected Welbeck over Wayne Rooney because of his ability and willingness to help out defensively.
Arsenal have landed themselves a much better player than they probably think; a player that will certainly be missed by Manchester United.
Would United have missed RVP?
If Van Persie was sold, would United really have missed him, following the arrival of Falcao? If anything, it would have eased Van Gaal’s selection headache.
Falcao is now Manchester United’s first-choice centre-forward, of that there is no doubt. The Red Devils haven’t agreed to pay his astronomical wages simply to keep him on the subs’ bench.
Rooney, meanwhile, is the team’s captain and also guaranteed a place in United’s starting line-up - either alongside Falcao, or just behind in the No. 10 position.
Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger was reportedly keen on the idea of bringing Van Persie back to the Emirates Stadium at one point last season, but that possibility was crushed when Moyes was replaced by Van Gaal.
Some United fans, though, might be wishing it was Van Persie instead of Welbeck now plying his trade for Arsenal Football Club.
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