By Tony Mogan
The Manchester United faithful have been privy to a countless number of privileges and pleasures under Sir Alex Ferguson’s 25-year tenure as boss at Old Trafford, but the refreshing focus on the development of local talent and young prodigies being fast-tracked into the first team under the philosophy that if you are good enough, you are old enough is perhaps the most poignant. No one has embodied this flourishing evolution more than Danny Welbeck this season, as he has marked his arrival as a genuine Manchester United star in style.
You’d struggle to find an article that didn’t touch upon Man United’s array of young talent this season. The arrival of Phil Jones and David De Gea, bought for fees that have quickly become a mere footnote, have slipped into the United first eleven, despite both being young enough to still be refused service to some of Manchester’s bars. Chris Smalling, who marshalled the backline for Maidstone United just three years ago, has picked up from where he left off last season, and has exhibited why he and Jones are the obvious successors to England’s defensive core.
Closer to home, Tom Cleverley has provided a balance to United’s midfield, playing a simple, yet effective game beyond his years. And there is Danny Welbeck. Despite Fergie’s unparalleled success in bringing home grown prodigies through the club’s youth system, there has been one thing missing, a forward who has gone on to establish himself as a potent force in the Premier League and Europe. The Longsight-born sensation is blessed with supreme technical ability, unnerving confidence in his own ability and most importantly, the desire to succeed in the red shirt.
The less said about United disastrous 6-1 home defeat at the hands of Manchester City, the better, but there is one detail that is worth holding onto, other than Darren Fletcher’s exquisite strike that will in all likelihood be forgotten about by the end of the season. In the biggest Manchester derby in recent history, Danny Welbeck was the lone Mancunian on show, a position held with the upmost merit.
Following in the footsteps of Jonny Evans, Welbeck took the opportunity to kick his development into hyper-drive at Sunderland, a move which both he and Sir Alex have acknowledged as had having an imperative role in the 20-year-old’s Premier League education. Doubts over his ability to cut it against teams and players in the upper echelons of the league were surely dispelled with his vibrant performance at Stamford Bridge where Sunderland inflicted a 3-0 defeat on Chelsea. Welbeck’s energetic and confident performance had United fans fervently awaiting his return to Old Trafford.
In the absence of Javier Hernandez, Welbeck found himself in the starting eleven during United’s exhilarating start to this season, partnering Wayne Rooney in the Community Shield victory over Manchester City, nodding in the opener from Tom Cleverley’s cross in the resounding 3-0 victory over Tottenham and opening the floodgates in the demolition of Arsenal a week later.
Welbeck indeed benefited from playing in a United side playing with the freedom and vibrancy of champions-elect, but equally commendable merits must come from occasions where United lacked that cutting edge which was so apparent in United’s opening 6 games. In the next few weeks, United’s free-flowing, goal-scoring assault on any opposition would slightly wane, but Welbeck’s unrelenting drive and hunger to get his name on the score sheet was as abundant as ever, grabbing a brace on his Champions League debut at home to Basel in a 3-3 draw, before sealing a 2-0 victory over Norwich City a week later with yet another goal. A week later, a trip to Anfield beckoned, and Welbeck was given the nod ahead of Wayne Rooney. Despite a rather stagnant United performance, he provided an energetic outlet for United, and provided the flick on from the corner from which Javier Hernandez snatched that crucial equaliser. Whether it was during United’s goal-laced whirlwind dominance at the start of the season or the pragmatic, sometimes lacklustre efforts of the past month, Danny Welbeck has proved to be a valuable attacking option for this United side, playing with all the exuberance of someone determined to make their mark.
Welbeck’s emergence on the pitch as a bona-fide Manchester United star has been a prominent highlight of Manchester United’s season, but perhaps the most rewarding aspect of it all is the 20-year-old’s desire to keep his feet well and truly on the ground. In a recent interview with The Daily Mail, Welbeck shared stories of how his five-year-old self would beg Wes Brown, then a 16-year-old trainee living on the same street, to let him join in with the older lads, and looking the part immediately. Fast forward fifteen years, and the story is much the same. Thrown into the first team, he has combined effortlessly with United’s older guard (Ryan Giggs at 37 and Wayne Rooney at the grand old age of 25) and new arrivals alike. And despite his reputation blossoming not only domestically, but on the international stage, the proud Mancunian’s goals remain remarkably straight forward.“There is no better feeling for a Manc kid than scoring for United,”[i]he said after the Tottenham game. “I want more of it.”[i]
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[i]Welbeck Quotes: Welbeck:’There is no better feeling for a Manc kid than scoring for United’ – News – MirrorFootball.co.uk