Date: 12th December 2012 at 11:22pm
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Does Danny need to find games elsewhere?

Does Danny need to find games elsewhere?

Manchester United love a young player. It’s one of the things that differentiates us from other leading clubs. Certain teams predominantly yearn success and display modest concern for the youth set-up, but United’s attention is more acutely focused on the players coming through the ranks, the promising teenagers who can go on to become the foundation of the first team.

It’s a tradition synonymous with the club for several decades, championed by Matt Busby, and has always been a belief upheld by Sir Alex. In fact, upon his arrival, one of the first things he did, aside from dispensing with the drinking culture that had beset the club, was to demand the youth set-up was allotted greater attention and resources. Soon youngsters from around the country – and later, from around the world – were supplementing the local players, creating an ever-widening pool of talent.

Initially, the rewards were minimal and sporadic. Russell Beardsmore, Tony Gill (until a broken leg curtailed his career), and Lee Martin were the limited highlights of an undistinguished production line. In September 1988, Lee Sharpe (acquired from Torquay for a nominal fee) broke into the first eleven, blossoming under United’s stewardship and becoming the most exciting young talent the club had possessed for some time. Of course, he was to be surpassed by a very special group of young players. There’s been more than enough written about that particular time for me to elaborate here. Besides, as we know, you don’t win anything with kids….

Unfortunately, the stars of the future failed to keep on coming. Since the introduction of Giggs, Scholes, etc between 1991 and ’94, the production line has gradually become less notable. Even though we were casting our net wider than ever before in the search for new stars, Wes Brown, John O’Shea, and Darren Fletcher were the only three academy players in the next decade and a half who made a lasting impressing on the first team. A few players hinted at potential – Kieran Richardson and Danny Simpson for instance – but ultimately fell short of the required standard. Considering the size of the club, it was a disappointing and meagre return.

It is beginning to change now. Jonny Evans has continued to progress and has become a fine, commanding centre half. Rafeal, bought from Fluminense for virtually nothing in a buy one get one free deal, has gradually been developed into an excellent right-back. Both Tom Cleverley and Nick Powell promise great things.

There is one other player who has made the leap. Danny Welbeck. A talented player in the Under-18 and reserve sides, scoring goals and displaying all manner of trickery and technique, he made his competitive first-team debut on 23rd September 2008. Initially used sparingly by Sir Alex, he eventually was farmed out on loan to Preston North End and then Sunderland, where he struck up an incisive partnership with Asamoah Gyan, most memorably when they combined brilliantly to defeat a then-dominant Cheslea by three goals without reply.

Returning to United in the summer of 2011, he was able to force his way into the side at the beginning of last season, taking advantage of Sir Alex’s growing distrust of Dimitar Berbatov and Javier Hernandez suffering second-season blues. He swiftly became an effective partner for Rooney, scoring seven goals himself before Christmas, including netting against Arsenal amongst others.

He had already made a few appearances for England and further caps followed later in the season. He acquitted himself impressively, appearing to be one of those players who find the step up to international level a logical progression rather than a stumbling block too far, and he performed with confidence and composure. In fact, for someone who occasionally still appears raw and a work-in-progress, he has scored his goals for England with aplomb, displaying the control and class of a senior striker.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, his form for United tailed off a little in the second half of last season, scoring less frequently, unaided by a continual rotation policy of his front-line by Sir Alex. This season, he has fared no better, and in twenty appearances he has only once seen his name on the score-sheet. As always, he has played with spirit and enthusiasm but he has been unable to replicate last season’s impact.

It’s natural for young players to suffer fluctuations in form and belief, and it’s always worth taking that into account. Even so, he finds himself in a strange position now. It is clear his game needs to develop. He possesses a raft of encouraging attributes: pace, upper-body strength, power in the air, and a terrific work-rate. He is excellent at harrying defenders and winning the ball back high up the pitch.

However, his first touch is occasionally clumsy, and presented with opportunities for a shot on goal or an incisive pass, he sometimes lacks the required poise. That’s not to say it isn’t in his armoury – consider his sublime finish for England against Belgium, or that delightful step inside an Everton defender and placement inside the top corner in that fateful 4-4 draw. It’s his inconsistency in key moments that is currently his greatest weakness. It could be attributed to confidence or inexperience but when he is afforded a great chance in front of goal, you don’t know whether to leap out of your seat with excitement or close your eyes and pray.

He has the potential to become a top player. He has the qualities. They just need harnessing, developing and polishing. The only way that will occur is through Premiership games. Not on the wing, where in a round hole he looks like the squarest of square pegs, but up front, holding the ball up, bringing others into play, and generally being a focal point for the team. He faces a problem though – whilst we reacted with shock and awe at Van Persie’s arrival this summer, it was bad news for Welbeck. Wayne Rooney has always been a certain starter. Now RVP will play most games and when you factor in Kagawa and a resurgent Hernandez, it is clear Welbeck’s opportunities will be limited and infrequent. For a young striker who still needs to develop, and who generally fails to shine as a substitute, that is hardly a promising picture.

He’s fallen into a paradox – he needs games to become a top player, but he needs to become a top player to force his way into the side. Sir Alex and Welbeck need to give serious thought how to develop his game that necessary 10 or 20%, as it’s unlikely to occur through the occasional appearance or a twenty minute cameo from the bench. Depending on what happens in the January transfer window, perhaps even a loan to another Premiership club for half a season or so should not be ruled out. We already have three premium forwards. Danny Welbeck now needs to work out how to progress towards that level too.

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7 responses to “Is This The Answer For Danny Welbeck?”

  1. realist says:

    wellbeck on loan…..great idea! (NOT)
    as for our youth setup not producing much after the fledglings, well, takes someone really special to replace keane giggs scholes beckham and later ronaldo. the stakes were raised too high for talents even as good as pique and rossi as the players in front of them were world class. its one thing coming through the ranks and replacing neil webb, phelan and players like that, but the afore mentioned players were just too good! now we have an ageing ferdinand and vidic so players like evans can get a chance, same too in midfield with cleverly. welbeck will get games and has plenty of time on his side, i wouldnt worry about him as long as fergie is in charge to be honest. just for the recoerd, he played out wide a lot for sunderland and played well and scored!

  2. john says:

    Any rumours of a loan offer in the papers yet?

  3. Ian says:

    If you compare with other top clubs Utd does very well in producing players. I read a statistic a few years ago that more premiership players had come through the Utd youth/reserve system that any other club. Something like 35 players even if some had come from other clubs as 16 year olds. Villa were second with less than 20. The list would have included the likes of Ebanks-Blake, Simpson, Bardsley, Spector, Richardson, players most people never associated with Utd. The moral of the story is that the Utd scouting and youth system produces produces a steady stream of solid premiership players even if only a few are good enough to play in the first team challenging for the title.

  4. steve says:

    honestly, welbeck is overrated! he’ll never be world-class, or score more than 20 goals a season. his main weakness is him shying away from using his left foot (which i believe is totally useless). the only reason why he’s still in the team is because he’s homegrown. his advantages…he’s big, fast and can win balls. but just like valencia, he’s lack of dribbling tricks and has a useless left foot. frankly, no technical improvement from this kid in the last 4 years…

  5. Andrew says:

    Man Utd need four strikers but we seem to be at a point where people can’t accept this fact. Welbeck is a valuable member of our squad and is only 21. I mean he is at the perfect place for his career. He is very much involved in the first team and is getting games. I agree he has only scored 1 goal this season, but he has been doing a great job in other ways and has played out of position.

    Welbeck trains with RVP and Rooney every day and he gets to play with them as well. The lad is going to be a slow burner in the sense that he will get better the older he gets. I believe when he reaches 24-25 he is going to be one hell of a player. At that point RVP will have probably left, hopefully with a bucket load of winners medals, and returned to Holland to finish his career.

    I definitely don’t believe he needs to go out on loan, especially when we are trying to win the title. Why would we let him leave? The lad is completely different to the other strikers, and I stress again, he is an important member of the squad. A bit of patience will be required on his end but I think he is on course to make as many appearances as he did last season.

  6. rudeboy says:

    We need welbeck. Van persie has been good but is sometimes injury prone. Wat appens when he gets injured. We will need welbeck. Just give im time. And playing him on d wing is nt a gud idea instead bring in nani 4 that

  7. jimmy says:

    A very astute article, which i think sums up the equation well, although i do think loaning him out is not necessary. Last season when welbeck played (i mean started the game because he has little effect when brought on as a sub) we lost only 2 games (blackburn at home when he was on the left wing [square peg round hole] and man city at home [no comment]) every other game which we lost welbeck did not start. Yes he isnt the greatest player to have graced old trafford but every time he didnt play last season we lacked cohesion and attacking flair (against city away we didnt have 1 shot all game!! against wigan away we struggled – 2 pivotal games). unfortunately for him RVP has come and can do everything he can do plus can score goals (which he struggles with). for me, if welbeck sorts his shooting out he will be a hero! This season he has played badly but i put that down to being on the left wing – take notice next time he partners rooney up front with cleverley in midfield – i bet you the team plays really well and scores a lot of goals – and welbeck skys a few 🙂 !!