One of the biggest criticisms against Danny Welbeck is that for a striker he doesn’t score enough goals. Even the biggest Welbeck enthusiasts can’t argue with that. He’s scored 20 goals in the league over the past three seasons, which is still more than £50m man Fernando Torres, but nowhere near what you would expect for a quality forward.
For United fans who want Welbeck sold, that strange sort of red whose mentality I genuinely don’t understand, they look at his stats and claim that he isn’t and won’t ever be United quality.
Even without my bias towards Welbeck, I find it weird that anyone could look at a player at 23 and write off their future. To believe that the form of a player when they’re still years away from their peak determines what sort of player they could become seems totally barmy to me.
I’m not suggesting that because a player has come up through the ranks and loves the club he deserves his place in the team regardless of how he plays, but why anyone couldn’t be a bit more patient with a player like that confuses me. Welbeck watched the European Cup final in 1999 in his front room with his family and went bonkers when we won. He grew up playing football on the streets of Longsight with Wes Brown. Ryan Giggs was his hero and he dreamed of one day getting to wear our shirt. Why wouldn’t supporters want to give a player like that a bit more time to prove themselves? At least see what he is capable of when given a fair crack of the whip.
It makes you wonder whether all fans are like this and how many of them end up with egg on their face. I wasn’t watching Guingamp play in 2001 and don’t have any pals who support Ligue 1 clubs, but I wonder what those fans made of a 23-year-old Didier Drogba. Having paid £80,000 for him after he scored 5 goals in 21 appearances for Le Mans, I wonder whether they were impressed with his return of 3 goals in 11 games. With 8 goals in 32 appearances as a 23-year-old, 0.25 goals per game, I wonder how many people wrote him off.
Similarly, in the year that Eric Cantona turned 23, what were Marseille fans saying about his 5 goals in 22 appearances? Granted, they probably had more to say about his poor conduct on and off the field, rather than how many times he was sticking the ball in to the back of the net, but his club were happy to palm him off to Bordeux, where he scored 6 goals in five months. Cantona was 27 before he was getting in to double figures every season.
Nicolas Anelka scored 4 goals in 20 games for Liverpool when he was 23, after PSG loaned him out when he fell out with the coach, with a record of 2 goals in 12 games. Liverpool opted against signing him on a permanent basis though and went for El Hadji Diouf instead, leading Anelka to sign for City, who had just been promoted to the Premier League.
Even players like Daniel Sturridge, who scored 21 goals in 29 games last season for Liverpool, couldn’t displace Torres from Chelsea’s starting line-up and scored just 1 goal in 7 appearances when he was 23. What a difference a year makes.
Aged 23, Edison Cavani had a scoring rate of 0.38 goals per game, Alessandro Del Piero 0.36, Teddy Sheringham 0.33, Karim Benzema 0.3, Ian Wright 0.24, Diego Forlan (at United) 0.24 and Dwight Yorke 0.16. The list goes on. Look at all the things those players went on to achieve after the age of 23, the successes they massively contributed towards, that they just weren’t capable of when they were the age Welbeck is now.
As soon as you start mentioning these sort of players, the moronic response is “ha ha, you are comparing Welbeck to Cantona/Del Piero/Cavani?!” Of course not. There are plenty of players who had a similar record to Welbeck’s who went on to have average or worse careers, and none of their names are mentioned here. Welbeck may go on to have a naff career too. But the players mentioned are irrelevant and if you can’t see that, you are missing the point entirely.
At 23-years-old, you don’t know what a player will become. Drogba was useless at 23 and ten years later he had been instrumental to a club winning the European Cup, several Premier League titles, several FA Cups and several League Cups. Guingamp fans would have likely laughed at the notion of this. I’ll repeat, I’m not saying Welbeck will emulate Drogba, simply that some players fulfil potential later than others. It stands to reason that if all these players excelled after the age of 23, there’s every possibility the same could apply to Welbeck.
Last season Danny Welbeck played 25 games for United and scored 9 goals, which is a rate of 0.36 goals per appearance. As the season drew to a close, only three players had a better goals per minute rate than Welbeck (excluding penalties).
In the six games that Welbeck started in the league over the Christmas period in the absence of Robin van Persie, Welbeck scored six goals.
The season before last, Welbeck played on the wing in almost every game he played. You would still imagine a winger should score more goals and he didn’t have a great season when out of position, but that shouldn’t be used as a stick to beat him with. If we are to judge him as a striker, then how effective he was as a winger is irrelevant.
If Welbeck is given a regular run in the team and fails to deliver, then fair enough, he can be lumped in with the players who showed potential at his age but didn’t score enough goals, and probably have an average career. If Welbeck isn’t given a regular run in the team, then he will leave at the end of the season anyway. But wanting him sold now, this summer, is madness.
The papers are reporting that Louis van Gaal has told Welbeck he can leave this summer and three clubs that finished above United last season, Arsenal, Spurs and Everton, are all keen on signing him.
When this story was presented to the manager at yesterday’s press conference, he lost his temper. He claimed that only he knew what had been said between him and Welbeck, whilst the media were just guessing, and that it was a private matter.
Sooner or later, the fans that want rid of Welbeck will probably get their way. When some non-Manc mercenary comes in his place, who couldn’t care less about the club, doesn’t give 100% in every game and has a similar scoring record, we can all rejoice.
Until then, I know I won’t be alone in being absolutely delighted every time our Danny sticks in the back of the net.
“It’s what every Manchester boy dreams of. Growing up, you just want to play for United but to score for them was out of this world. There’s no better club than United.”
The RoM Manchester United 2021-22 season preview is now available for just £6. It includes articles from the country's best football writers about our expectations for the season ahead and our brightest talents, as well as proposed transfer business and which youth players to keep an eye out for. All profit goes to Trafford Macmillan so please support this fantastic cause.