On the day after one of the most controversial Champions League matches in recent years, Danny Welbeck played instead of Wayne Rooney in one of the biggest games in his short but glittering career.
The Salford born youngster has matured massively since his debut for Sir Alex Ferguson’s squad and has never looked back. He made his England debut 24 months ago in the 1-1 draw with Ghana and scored his first international goal against Belgium in June 2012.
Welbeck has scored some pivotal and important goals for The Red Devils as well – including the opening goal against Real Madrid at the Bernabeu Stadium.
The forward is Manchester born and breed and without even realizing it, he is special in more ways than one. In the past decade it is fair to proclaim that the 22 year-old is perhaps the only English striker to come through the ranks of a ‘top club’ and ultimately earn his crust at the club that nurtured him.
Wayne Rooney is perhaps the only other English striker you could dare to mention in the same mould as Welbeck. However, he has played Premier League football for United since 2004 so it quashes that debate.
The likes of Darren Bent, Peter Crouch, Daniel Sturridge, Jermain Defoe and Andy Carroll all started their careers at ‘smaller clubs’. So who does that leave? One player worth mentioning is Theo Walcott.
Although the Arsenal forward did ply his trade at Southampton he has been at Arsenal since the ripe age of 16 so the 23 year old is the closest player to Welbeck in terms of club nurture and loyalty.
The lightning-quick Arsenal forward has been in unbelievable form for the Gunners and is widely considered an out-and-out striker by his peers, pundits and fans alike.
In terms of the national squad it is a clear indication the bigger clubs in England rely far too heavily on player transfers. Whether that’s the manager’s decision or from board level, it varies from club to club. The truth is the likes of Manchester United, Manchester City, Arsenal, Chelsea, Tottenham and Liverpool and to some extent Everton are not doing enough for young English strikers.
Since the Premier League’s inauguration in 1992, Robbie Fowler and Michael Owen are the only two star Premier League strikers who have came through the youth ranks and cemented a first team spot. Both did eventually move on to other clubs but they were both successful at Liverpool.
England have always relied heavily on their strike force but very rarely have they been producing the goods at a big side, say for example Arsenal.
It’s impossible to tell what the future holds – in any walk of life let alone football. One thing that is guaranteed is that it’s hard to see any of the ‘big clubs’ developing the next Fowler, Owen or Welbeck.
Perhaps strikers are better off developing their footballing skills elsewhere before making a move to England’s elite. It didn’t seem to do the likes of Alan Shearer, Teddy Sheringham, Defoe or Bent any harm.
One thing that is for sure if Welbeck helps United win the Premier League this season, it will be his coaches and managers from United’s youth setup that will give him the biggest plaudits.