Welbeck rise leaves Berba in the cold

When Paris Saint Germain sporting director Leonardo called Sir Alex Ferguson earlier this summer the Brazilian cannot have been surprised at the answer received. No, the Scot said, to Leonardo’s polite enquiry about Dimitar Berbatov’s availability. That was a little more than six weeks ago when, flush with Qatari money, PSG remained bent on signing United’s Bulgarian as the French club’s summer marquee player.

Three games into the new season, Ferguson will have cause to reconsider his decision – a bold one at that – turning down a bid of around €20 million for a player pushing past 30 and out of contract in 10 months time. Ferguson’s decision was, of course, based on prudence. Last season’s top goalscorer offers something none of his contemporaries at Old Trafford can; the Scot has always valued a flexible range of attacking choices.

“If you look at Berbatov, Owen, Hernandez and Rooney, they all have different qualities,” Ferguson said after United’s 3-0 victory Monday night.

“You have to utilise all that and make changes as best you can. The horrible part for me now is with having Javier back, what do we do? It is going to be a big problem for me.”

Yet, Longsight-born striker Danny Welbeck has started each of United’s competitive games this season, scoring a fine header against Tottenham Hotspur on Monday night and earning a call to Fabio Capello’s England squad for the aborted friendly against Holland.

The 20-year-old’s rapid progress leaves Ferguson the tough task of managing Berbatov’s remaining time with United. Even more so given Hernández’ return to fitness that leaves Berbatov fourth choice at Old Trafford despite last season’s heroics. Moreover, while nobody doubts the Bulgarian’s talent there is seemingly a growing consensus that United’s vibrant, flexible and pacey attacking play this season is far better served with Rooney, Hernández and Welbeck leading the line, rather than the former Spurs striker.

Then there is Welbeck’s progress since recovering from a debilitating knee-problem during his teenage years. The talent has always been evident. After all Ferguson once predicted that the youngster would make Capello’s 2010 World Cup squad. The end product, however, has been honed during a year under Steve Bruce’s tutelage at Sunderland.

“Danny is a big, rangy, long-legged boy who can gallop really quickly,” Ferguson said of Welbeck, who despite the positive start to the season, has been demoted to England Under-21s this week.

“Once he gets his legs going he is quick. He is a good footballer and has a great attitude when he loses the ball. He has always had ability but made slow progress because when he was growing he had a bit of a knee growth problem, so we knew we had to wait for him.

“We put him on loan to Sunderland last season and that is when he became a man. He has grown up. He is still only 20 years of age and the lad has a great future.”

But if the future is Welbeck then the Berbatov calculation is more subtle than simply retention of multiple options. After all, Ferguson has promised Michael Owen more games this season, while Federico Macheda and Mame Biram Diouf – neither made the bench for the Spurs game – each retain hopes of making it at Old Trafford.

For Welbeck, however, the equation is far simpler: staying in the team, with Hernández in line to start against Arsenal on Sunday.

“There is no better feeling for a Manc kid than scoring for United. I want more of it,” said Welbeck.

“It gives us [young players] confidence when the manager picks us. The gaffer has built a great squad with youth and experience in abundance. You know that once you’re in that starting eleven, you’ve got to work hard to keep your place. So I think everyone’s working hard in training and doing their best to get in the starting eleven.”

Welbeck is far from the finished article though and the player’s performance against both West Bromwich Albion and for an hour against Spurs was often mediocre. The striker’s understanding of space, his role and that of his colleagues can and will surely improve. Indeed, Ferguson’s half-time assertion that Welbeck provide more attacking presence offers an insight into the progress that United’s new star must still put in.

“I thought in the first half, Danny didn’t play as a centre forward,” added 69-year-old Ferguson.

“He was too much in midfield. We stressed at half-time that we needed more of a presence up front, we needed our targets up there and we needed someone to run through. In the second half they were much better that way and it made a difference to our game.”

Ferguson’s comments also provide another insight: Welbeck is a fast learner, evidenced by the fine 61st minute header than opened United’s account.

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Comments

  1. jDuke_ says

    Its a long season and injuries will eventually come. We’ll be happy to have Berba as an option as the year progresses. I predict he will still score 10 goals in the EPL and 12-15 across all competitions.
    Macheda and Diouf on the otherhand will be better off out on loan I would imagine.

  2. neer911 says

    Berba will get his chance this season, but they will be few and far between. I can see either Owen or Welbeck getting a long-term injury at some point this season, so he may actually come off the bench a couple of times. And the Champs League group stages beckon, too. He’ll get his chances. But not many.

  3. uncleknobheadffsuncleknobheadforfucksake says

    in due course he’ll be a better player than all our strikers bar wayne, you can see it with the odd moments of brilliance he comes up with during games, he’s got it he’s just not put it all together yet, he will tho

  4. reddread says

    That loan at Sunderland has done him the world of good. He’s come back bigger, quicker and more confident. If any of our lads need a loan spell that will show actual benefits when they return to United, Fergie should send them to Steve Bruce so he can make a man of them.

  5. Alfonso BedoyaAlfonso Bedoya says

    Don’t know about that… Hernandez scored a ton of goals, and that’s great… but goals often come from the excellent work of others… Hernandez didn’t show me anything that says he’s actually a good player, and not just a goal poacher.

  6. squigs says

    Rubbish, you talk as if he scored 20 tap in’s last year, his pace alone allowed us to stretch defences in a way in which we never could with this team.

    His job is to score goals.

  7. Alfonso BedoyaAlfonso Bedoya says

    No… you’re talking rubbish… if pace is all you want… then let’s sign my neighbours son… you should see that little cunt outrun the rozzers.

    Look… I never said he was good or bad… just that goals alone is a narrow view of a players season.

    Berbatov scored more goals than anyone, yet some here want shot of him… Chico scored more goals than Rooney… does that make him the better player?

    You seem to rate Hernandez more than Welbeck… fair enough… but I haven’t seen enough of Welbeck to say he’s worse, and Hernandez may have scored goals, but none of them were particularly special, and his passing, dribbling and overall play didn’t impress me that much… but I wasn’t complaining either, so wind your neck in.

  8. RobDiabloRobDiablo says

    Alfonso Bedoya said:
    …Hernandez may have scored goals, but none of them were particularly special…

    That back-header was pretty tasty, but I agree with most everything else you said: too soon to make a final judgement.

  9. squigs says

    Berbatov scored more goals than anyone, yet some here want shot of him… Chico scored more goals than Rooney… does that make him the better player?

    On last seasons form he certainly was better then Rooney. I’m not saying he is a better player then Rooney but he showed more consistency, not a controversial statement. Rooney only showed a level of form once Hernandez was in the team, is it unfair to say Hernandez excellent movement stretched defences allowing Rooney space to play in the hole?

    Welbeck was a 1 goal in 4 games man for Sunderland and lacks the touch or the instincts to be a really top top striker. People are raving over a good 20 minute spell, he was average against City, pointless against West Brom and poor again for the first half against Spurs. We have better strikers coming through then Welbeck.

    Hernandez paired with his pace has the awareness to get himself into the right positions, look at his goal against Valencia last season if you don’t rate his first touch.

  10. baggio365 says

    forget the welbeck vs hernandez debate. we wont know who’s better for another few seasons. right now welbeck is very raw; hernandez had a great first season but needs to back it up. so lets see what happens, and hopefully it works out in united best interests

    and personally, i think fergie might sell berba before the window closes if PSG make another bid. the fact that he sent hernandez on against spurs instead of berba says it all. one guy hasnt played for weeks cause of a concussion and had a shorted close season cause of the gold cup. the other has been twiddling his thumbs for most of the last 3-4 months. if anyone should have played, espeically as a vote of confidence, it should have been berba. but fergie clearly doesnt trust/rate him anymore.

  11. squigs says

    If PSG offer even 15 million, the deal makes sense for Fergie, along with Welbeck we have Macheda and Josh King who will all be able to provide some degree of cover in the future.

  12. says

    Diouf is probably 7th choice forward but is looking sharp in the stiffs. Could yet send out Macheda on loan and sell Berbatov whilst keeping Diouf. King on loan at B. Monchengladbach. Diouf could attract interest from elsewhere though. 5 days to go to the end of the transfer window!

  13. says

    The only chance is if we sell Berba and loan out Macheda as stated above. I didn’t really see the point of having him but he has been in good form pre-season.

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