Returning to Manchester United after loan spells of varying success last season were forwards Danny Welbeck and Kiko Macheda. As if it wasn’t tough enough having to compete with each other to gain a place in the United line-up, they also had to contend with the fact that Rooney, Hernandez, Berbatov and Michael Owen were ahead of them. No one would have blamed either Fergie or the players themselves for asking to go out on loan for a further season in order to clock up game time and goals. However, this was not the case and both vowed to fight for a place in the squad.
Pre-season, it has to be said, I genuinely thought that it would be Kiko Macheda that would stand up and be counted this season, and break into the first team. After a disastrous loan spell at now relegated Sampdoria, where the player stated he was too afraid to leave his house due to abuse from the fans, he had a decent pre-season for United, scoring a couple of goals during the game against New England Revolution, and looked to be putting last year behind him, expressing his happiness to be playing in the Premier League and for United.
Although Welbeck had a more successful time at Sunderland, playing 21 premier league games and scoring 6 goals in that time, I was less enamoured with the player and after pre-season was beginning to come to the conclusion that, although a premier league player, Welbeck was not at the level needed yet to break into the United first team.
Imagine my surprise then when not only did the player start the Community Shield game against City, but also started the Premier League opener against WBA, and played well in both of them, taking full advantage of the concussion sustained by Hernandez. Meanwhile, Macheda was nowhere to be seen, and Welbeck was busy making sure he did not slip out of anyone’s thoughts, scoring against Spurs and then Arsenal before sustaining a hamstring injury and missing the next couple of games.
It would have been easy for Welbeck to fade away after a decent start to the season then an injury which took away his momentum, but the player is made of much tougher stuff than that, returning from injury to score twice and rescue United in the Champions league and then against Norwich in the league. Clearly Welbeck by this point had more than justified his place in the United squad, and against Liverpool lead the line up top, setting up Hernandez for the equaliser.
Evidently Welbeck has repaid the faith shown in him by Alex Ferguson, and the whole attitude of the player is nothing short of a consummate professional, not unlike name sake Daniel Sturridge, who had a similar situation at Chelsea, returning from a loan spell at Bolton and taking every opportunity provided to prove his worth and cement his place in the squad.
During a period where everyone is talking about Rooney’s ban for England in the Euros, rather than bemoaning this, we should be looking to talents like Welbeck and Sturridge as players who can bring England forward and more than compensate up front in the summer. Fergie certainly seems to think Welbeck is ‘more than capable’ of doing this, and on Welbeck’s form so far this season, who can disagree with him?
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