It was a stellar evening in the Welbeck household on Saturday night, as Danny Welbeck managed to silence the unrelenting critics with a standout performance against Swansea City, in United’s opening fixture of the 2013-14 Barclay’s Premier League.
The England forward (who had also netted midweek against bitter rivals Scotland in a 3-2 victory at Wembley) managed to find the back of the goal twice over 90 minutes—already doubling his tally in the league compared with the whole of last season.
The outing did not go unnoticed, with many pundits and football fans alike all heaping praise on the striker, who finally appears to be living up to the potential he showed during his loan spell at Sunderland.
While this is a fantastic start to the new campaign for Welbeck, its crucial for United fans to keep their feet on the ground in regards to the 22-year-old.
Yes, this was an amazing showing from Welbeck, and yes, it does appear as though his goalscoring touch has returned—but with fierce competition from Javier Hernandez and, for the time being at least, Wayne Rooney, Welbeck needs to focus on maintaining this slot in the starting XI.
It goes without saying that as a striker the primary objective for the man from Longsight should be to continue scoring as regularly as he has done over the course of preseason and at the start of this new campaign.
This has always been the key issue with Welbeck’s doubters—and perhaps rightfully so.
Last year Welbeck made 27 appearances in the league, only managing to bag himself a solitary goal. It wasn’t great news in other competitions either, with the forwards record reading 13 appearances for again only a single goal’s return.
Two goals in 40 appearances is not exactly the output one might expect from a United first-teamer.
However, if the opening-day demolition of Swansea was anything to go by, it may be the case that this is an issue of the past.
Certainly nobody should expect Welbeck to go out and start rivalling Robin van Persie for goals, but so long as he scores at least half as many as the Dutchman, he should be beating out Hernandez for a spot in the starting lineup.
Another key factor in maintaining his position in the side is actually the one thing that did win Welbeck praise last season—his ability to link up with both the centre-forward and the central holding midfielder.
This exact role is what has primarily caused Wayne Rooney such umbrage.
However, while Wayne is not happy playing as the “lesser” striker, Welbeck has pretty much carved a career out of this role.
It takes a modest team player to adopt this duty successfully, and that is the exact mind frame that Welbeck has consistently exhibited across his short tenure with the Red Devils.
While this secondary striker (sometimes even wandering toward playing as more of a winger than a forward) is still expected to add goals to the tally, their main objective is to maintain possession and provide chances for the leading forward.
A perfect example of this kind of role would be Cesc Fabregas’ new position at Barca. Acting as a winger-cum-forward, Cesc is able to carve out chances, link up with the Barca midfield and also put balls on a plate for Lionel Messi—while all the time netting a few for himself.
Welbeck also epitomised how to correctly pull this off against Swansea, setting up chances, but also crucially getting himself in those all-important goalscoring positions (The latter of which being what was so lacking from his performances last year—finding the space for himself to score, not only his team-mates).
Finally, and perhaps least importantly of all, Welbeck needs to cut out the silly errors that make the haters frantic.
While he pulled off what would have been a man-of-the-match performance (had it not been for RVP’s excellance) against the Swans, the blame for the Welsh side’s equaliser has to lie solely on his young shoulders.
Despite doing a good job getting back and supporting his defence, Welbeck foolishly tried to hold up and then dribble the ball out and away from danger.
As a result Swansea won the ball back in a dangerous position and soon pounced on the chance to get a goal back.
This was in the 82nd minute, with the score already at 3-0. There was no danger that United were going to throw the match away, and Welbeck himself made up for the error with a wonderful goal in the 93rd minute to make it 4-1.
However, the 22-year-old needs to learn (and he will with age and experience) that sometimes trying to play attractive football is not always the best option. Sometimes a good old-fashioned hoof up-field is all it needs!
Mistakes like this are what might convince Moyes to go with a more experienced player, like Rooney.
As stated, though, this isn’t too much of a concern from an offensive youngster, who naturally always wants to be on the ball and impress.
Ultimately, If Welbeck can pull off the kind of performance that he did this weekend on a regular basis, then he may soon find himself being considered a critical cog in the United framework for the year ahead.