The 22-year-old Englishman has spent the majority of the season on the bench waiting patiently for his opportunities in United’s attacking line-up.
However, he currently waits in line behind Premier League top goal scorer Robin van Persie, Wayne Rooney who has netted 9 goals in his deeper supporting role and Javier Hernandez dubbed the ‘super-sub’ already on 12 goals.
Welbeck has scored just one goal this season for United and is universally recognized as the Premier League leaders’ fourth-choice striker. However, his ability to assist as a second striker or even wide forward has been far more impressive than his finishing ability.
Last weekend, against Tottenham, one could be forgiven for believing they were watching a winger support a lone striker. That’s effectively how he operated against Spurs and, despite the result ended as disappointing 1-1 draw for the Red Devils, I was impressed by Welbeck’s contribution.
Traditionally United have had wingers that could chip in with up to 10 goals a season and this has been less prominent since the departure of Cristiano Ronaldo, the aging of Ryan Giggs, the fitness concerns of Antonio Valencia and the inconsistent form of both Nani and Ashley Young.
Giggs used to average around 8 goals per season in the days when David Beckham used to average around 10. These days, it’s a very different story – admittedly the team has completely changed as has the formation but nonetheless, Sir Alex Ferguson would have hoped for Nani to score more than one solitary league goal this season.
Equally both Ashley Young and Antonio Valencia have scored exactly zero goals between them. United could really use some more attacking ambition in the wide areas as was, in my opinion, perfectly demonstrated against Spurs last weekend.
Both van Persie and Wayne Rooney when he came on were found coming deeper and into wider positions to receive the ball and affect the build-up play, and United’s full-backs Rafael and Patrice Evra were pinned back trying to handle Gareth Bale and Aaron Lennon and, subsequently, Spurs were able to stretch the play and, ultimately, capitalize.
Welbeck is fast, technically gifted, and a decent passer of the ball which would make him actually more suited to playing on the flank – his poor finishing and shot conversion rates are the mark of a young footballer lacking match fitness, form and confidence.
He’s rarely going to get chances to play up font and he’s hardly going to develop sitting on the bench. However, he could develop into a well-rounded striker through learning his trade on the wing as Arsene Wenger at Arsenal often makes his strikers do.
It’s kind of like a right of passage – learn how to attack from the flank and then you’ll get your chance through the middle. One thing’s for sure, as United press on with their league title ambitions and tough fixtures in the Champion’s League, Welbeck will get fewer and fewer chances to prove himself through the centre.
He should be pushing Ferguson for a spot on the wing, and with the current form of his competitors in that position, there really would be no time like the present - especially if he intends to make it to the World Cup next year.
image: © vagueonthehow