Less than a year ago, Danny Welbeck scored the biggest goal of his Manchester United career when he put his boyhood team 1-0 up against Real Madrid at the Bernabeu.
“He was marvellous,” Sir Alex Ferguson said after the game. “It is a pity he got cramp at the end of game, but he worked so hard. They found it difficult to handle him.”
In the return leg, Welbeck was started ahead of Wayne Rooney and it was a decision that paid off. He offered so much speed and energy to United’s counter-attacks and put loads of pressure on Xabi Alonso, closing him down all night, meaning you hardly noticed that the Madrid playmaker was on the pitch. He supported Robin van Persie very well and exhibited some excellent movement off the ball. It was a toss up between him and Ryan Giggs for Man of the Match, with both of them covering every blade of grass that evening.
We were then cruelly knocked out after the ridiculous sending off for Nani’s high boot, a decision which, Real Madrid’s manager at the time, Jose Mourinho, admitted handed his side victory.
“Manchester United were playing very well,” Mourinho said after the game. “I doubt with 11 against 11 we could win the match. I know they (Manchester United) are giants, not just physically but mentally. I know they are fantastic and have a manager capable of organising and motivating people.”
This season, in the first leg against Bayern Munich, we were victim to yet another European referee making yet another bad decision for a high boot. Welbeck’s opening goal was ruled out after Javi Martinez stooped his head down low but still the striker avoided making contact with him.
But the next opportunity Welbeck had to leave his mark on the game was a mistake of his own making, when after breaking behind Bayern Munich’s back line, he opted to try and chip Manuel Neuer instead of striking the ball along the ground. On a different night, United could have gone in 2-0 up at half-time thanks to goals from Welbeck, but it wasn’t to be.
No doubt the striker has played those moments back in his head over and over since last week and he will be keen to make amends tonight.
United will certainly be playing counter-attacking football all evening and Welbeck has the pace to do some damage. Those opportunities were created for him at Old Trafford so we will be looking to do the same again now. Hopefully, after the personal disappointment of the first game, Welbeck will be sharper in front of goal.
“It was a big goal – probably the biggest goal I’ve scored,” Welbeck said after scoring at the Bernabeu. “It’s something you strive for since being a little kid. Playing for Manchester United in one of the biggest games made me feel proud and it gives you motivation to strive for more.”
Please Danny, let tonight be the night you achieve more.