The modern Premier League is dominated by big money imports and a desire for instant gratification that seems to drive every shortsighted decision. It is for this reason that the story of Danny Welbeck’s career at Manchester United it so heartening. Welbeck was granted first team opportunity after years of toil and hard work at the boyhood club that he has so much affection for. After a series of loan spells and transitional periods for the frontman, 2013/14 marks an important season for the young man who is eager to showcase his abilities.
Danny Welbeck has been a part of the senior team since 2008. A local boy who was picked up at a young age by the extensive United scouting network, he was identified as a prodigious talent from early on. As part of his footballing education he was sent on loan spells to Preston North End and Sunderland. Returning for the 2011/12 season, he appeared invigorated by his experiences elsewhere and was able to notch 12 goals in partnership with Wayne Rooney.
Just as many started to expect great things from the Englishman, 2012/13 marked something of a backward step for the young talent. The capture of Robin Van Persie vastly reduced Welbeck’s opportunities up front with Sir Alex preferring both Rooney and Hernandez as back ups to the Dutchman. Afforded more opportunity out wide to support the under-performing wingers, Welbeck actually proved his worth as a wide man.
However, Welbeck has come under intense criticism for his meagre goal scoring record. The striker himself admitted he must improve fast in this area; a haul of 2 goals last year in all competitions for a title winning side is a concern. The striker mentioned this in an interview for the Mirror, commenting:
“Overall, there have been improvements to my game and I have been more consistent,”
“But I’ve been playing on the wing, which has inhibited my ability to get into goal-scoring positions.
Herein lies the problem for Welbeck. At 22 he is beginning to enter a stage of his career where he needs to be playing week in week out in his best position. Currently it is difficult to discern exactly where this position is simply because he has previously been played in a range of roles. If Manchester United do not see him as a long term front man, then they should consistently employ him in other areas. He may be apprehensive about playing out wide, but he showed last term that he has a real flair when given the opportunity to run at defenders. A player of Welbeck’s class has to at some point stop being the rotated utility man and move towards nailing down a position of his own.
Danny Welbeck not only represents one of the biggest talents in English football, but in the world game more generally. It has been widely publicised how incompetent we are as a nation in nurturing our talented youngsters. From a purely English point of view, it is important that Welbeck starts to show his true worth soon at United for the sake of our international team. On the continent rising stars are given the opportunity to nail down first team roles, whereas in England we seem averse to offering anything more than a bit part role. Manchester United should have their interests at heart first and foremost; considerations for the national team should be in my view secondary. In the case of Welbeck I think accelerating his development would be to the advantage of both club and country.
Next year is a big one for Danny Welbeck. A new manager could offer him the opportunity to nail down a first team role. Many may argue at 22 this is too much too soon, and that his current role will serve both player and club for the time being. However, across Europe it is commonplace for precocious talent to feature readily at this age and in many cases it has led to them developing a lot earlier. By his early 20’s Messi was playing regularly for Barcelona, and if we are to consider Welbeck a world-class talent then this sort of comparison should be made.
The problem for Welbeck is that his affiliation with United is both a footballing and emotional one. In purely footballing terms he should be playing in his best position week in week out. If United cannot offer this then he should look to move somewhere where he will be given that opportunity.
Next season marks something of a crossroads for the England international. Will he be able to kick on and develop into a world-class footballer in the coming years? If he can be deployed regularly in his best role, be that wide or up front, then I am convinced United will have one of the best young footballers in Europe at their disposal. Failure to do this and I can only see another potential English talent forced to ply his trade at a club of lesser stature.
Will Danny Welbeck prove his worth next season?