In the early hours of Tuesday morning, two hours after expected, the summer transfer window ‘slammed shut’. Because it never just closes does it? As the closing minutes brought United fans a strange kind of ecstasy – one which we would never have allowed ourselves to dream of when settling in the evening before – with the signing of Radamel Falcao on loan, there was a somewhat empty feeling left in the stomach at the sale of fan’s favourite, Danny Welbeck to Arsenal for £16million.
Undoubtedly the two deals both going down to the wire was no coincidence, with the reliance on Falcao’s switch from Monaco going through before any move for Welbeck to the Emirates would be given the green light. Given the option, it goes without saying that almost any fan would take the Colombian goal machine at their club ahead of the England frontman, but it still hurts to lose one of your own.
Rumours of various comings and goings were rife throughout the summer, but all the talk of an exit for Welbeck seemed illogical and baffling given our attacking options, and with the introduction of James Wilson into this season’s first team squad, only an exit for Javier Hernandez – who also made a late loan switch to Real Madrid – seemed like a plausible option. Certainly losing both seemed out of the question.
However in the remaining days, it appeared as though Welbeck’s fate was sealed, after seemingly being told he would be behind Rooney, Van Persie and even Wilson in the pecking order, with the availability of Monaco’s Falcao proving the final nail in the coffin.
My first encounter of Welbeck came in the FA Youth Cup Semi-Final at Old Trafford, ironically against the team that 7 years later he would go on to join. I was eager to see the rangy, local forward turning out that day, having heard positive things throughout the season. His ability to bring others into play immediately struck me, along with his ability to aptly slot easily into either the centre forward’s role, or more of a wide position.
The 16-year-old from Longsight scored United’s fourth that day and was largely instrumental in a 4-2 win – securing a final place against Liverpool. His destiny in the United first team squad was apparent and made his Premier League debut little over a year later at Old Trafford, replacing Ji-Sung Park in a 5-0 victory over Stoke.
His Premier League introduction proved that he had something about him, leaving a lasting memory at Old Trafford, playing a neat one-two with Manucho before unleashing a stunning 30-yard drive for United’s fourth that day.
A loan spell at Sunderland in the 2010-11 season gave him the Premier League exposure needed giving him the chance to perform week in week out at the top level. There he proved more than capable, running the show in a 3-0 victory over Chelsea – his standout performance at the Black Cats. Rumours that the Weirsiders wanted to make the deal permanent were dashed with Welbeck returning to the United first team set up the following season.
He kept Dimitar Berbatov out of the team at the beginning of that season, impressing in the Community Shield, before netting in early wins over both Tottenham and Arsenal before a hamstring injury ruled him out. He went on to score 12 times in his first full season, bettered only by Wayne Rooney and proving an essential member of the United squad.
Being perhaps not the most glamorous or flamboyant of frontmen, Welbeck’s qualities tend to go unnoticed – mainly by fans of other Premier League clubs – with his lack of goals cited among the “He’s shit” arguments, a point largely moot given that an out and out goalscorer is something he has never claimed or threatened to be. General consensus amongst many Arsenal fans on hearing of the move being the “Oh God, not Danny Welbeck” approach. Astounding naivety.
It’s happened many times before, England fans for example fail to recognise the role Carrick could have played over the last decade, blindsided by the cluster-fuck of the Gerrard/Lampard partnership and they fact that they could each net 20+ goals a season or had a higher market value on Football Manager.
Welbeck’s ability to stretch defences and run channels brings others into play perhaps making him a more credible candidate to feature alongside either Rooney or Van Persie in a front two given their seeming lack of understanding and chemistry.
He has already proved that he can handle the big occasion, netting United’s opener against Real Madrid at the Bernebeau a few seasons back, before being our biggest threat in our most recent Champions league exit to Bayern Munich. More decisive finishing from him in that tie may have seen a different outcome, but his effort and work rate alone allows more chances to be created.
While it’s a shame to see the likes of Welbeck go as I feel he still had a great deal to offer our side, his deal represents superb value for money for Arsenal. To put things in perspective, The Gunners – who are without a recognised centre-forward due to Giroud’s injury – have a young but experienced Premier League and Champions League frontman for the same price as Liverpool paid for Balotelli, without any of the same risk.
Or to rub salt into our wounds, we received the same for a recognised international forward, as we paid for Wilfried Zaha.
The unselfish nature of his play and ability to bring into play those around him should bode well for him at Arsenal, and given the chance to be the focal point of their attack will no doubt bring him plenty more goals and assists.
His desire and hunger made him a standout choice for the big games, because most importantly, he was United through and through. A Manchester lad who had been at the club since he was eight years of age. Someone who knew exactly what it meant to play for Manchester United. Welbeck’s exit means that Tyler Blackett will be the only real local vying for a realistic place in the first team squad, but while suggestions are made that the sale ditches United’s philosophy of promoting from within are absurd. Wholesale changes to the squad were clearly needed hence the large outlay on transfers this summer, but along with this came the appointment of a manager who has a reputation perhaps above any of giving chances to academy players.
We have every reason to be excited about Wilson, as well as Blackett, Reece James and others who may follow over the coming years, but while we say goodbye to Welbeck, the love affair is not necessarily over just yet.
We’ve enjoyed Danny for what he is, and now it’s about time others started doing the same.