Pete Sharland reveals how he has been won over by Danny Welbeck, and believes he can play a big part in England’s World Cup summer…
Right, let’s get one thing clear from the outset; my dislike for Danny Welbeck and Tom Cleverley had nothing to do with the fact that they play for Manchester United. The reason was that I couldn’t fathom why either were such key parts of a club like United and of the England team. Both had fairly decent loans at Sunderland and Wigan respectively but neither deserved to be where they were.
This season though that’s changed. Well Cleverley hasn’t, he’s horribly out of his depth but that doesn’t excuse some half-wits creating a horrible petition to get him out of the England team. The man who has won me over however is Danny Welbeck, and it is quite hard to pinpoint why. Perhaps it is his cheeky grin when he scores, although you can be certain it isn’t his infuriating dance.
He is far from the most technical of players, in fact at times it looks like someone has rewired his brain so his legs are totally disconnected from the rest of his body but yet he still scores goals. He’s scored nine in the league this season which is only two less than mega bucks Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie. He has a better conversion rate than both of those players and he works far harder for the team than either of that pair does. Rooney has a sensational work ethic, everyone knows that but the work off the ball that Welbeck does for his team often seems to go unnoticed.
The problem with Rooney and van Persie is that they both want to play in the hole behind a striker and that creates congestion in the middle of the park. That congestion is hardly improved when Juan Mata and Adnan Januzaj are thrown in. All four of those players want to play centrally and that means that they can be easily exposed on the wings and this is where Welbeck comes in. He is more than prepared to work tirelessly up and down the flank and he provides balance to United when he features.
Additionally when he comes on he seems to link up better with Rooney and Mata than van Persie does. He allows the pair to play their natural game and he can offer an option out wide or provide a link up as a central striker. David Moyes needs to take a serious look at his options for the rest of the season as van Persie’s head seems to have completely gone and he just doesn’t look focused. Moyes can’t afford any passengers if he harbours any hope for a top four place and with Liverpool visiting Old Trafford on Sunday he can’t risk van Persie being at 50%. Welbeck will give him the work rate that is needed if he’s going to keep Suarez and Sturridge quiet.
Perhaps the thing that has endeared him most to me is the way in which he just gets on with things and doesn’t complain about his lack of game time. This is unlike a man a year his senior, Daniel Sturridge, who did nothing but moan when he was being used off the bench at Chelsea. Sturridge has since taken his game to a different level and he is clearly some way ahead of Welbeck, but there is an argument for dropping Wayne Rooney and playing his club mate. This would allow Sturridge to move centrally, where he plays best and Welbeck out wide where he is better than either Rooney or Sturridge.
On current form, if Roy Hodgson wants to persist with this 4-3-3, then there is no place for Rooney. Sturridge is England’s best central striker at the moment and unless Hodgson wants to switch to a 4-2-3-1, Rooney doesn’t fit in. In a 4-3-3 Adam Lallana and Danny Welbeck should flank Sturridge, with Jack Wilshere, Steven Gerrard and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in a midfield three. Rooney doesn’t help the team because he sometimes drifts out of the game and he is far too undisciplined. In a team like United it is fine but for England it actually hinders the side and that’s why Welbeck probably deserves a shot.
Given how long he’s been around it seems astonishing that Welbeck is still only 23, although that in itself brings responsibility. If he’s going to continue to be a top level forward with Manchester United and England he needs to up the goal tally even more next season. Van Persie’s almost inevitable departure might help in that regard. It has taken a number of years but he’s finally won me round and given where he was starting that’s a pretty impressive feat.