Robin van Persie’s latest injury has opened the door once again for Manchester United’s prodigal son who could fire his club and England to great heights in the next six months. Following months of injury and inertia, Danny Welbeck’s brace Sunday at Villa Park could be a sign of things to come in 2014.
Welbeck is a rare technically gifted, tactically savvy, and tireless English attacking player. In fact, he may be the only player in Roy Hodgson’s player pool that fits that description currently. Following an outstanding 2011-12 season, the Manchester United forward found himself somewhat unexpectedly in Roy Hodgson’s plans for the Euro 2012 finals. In that tournament, Welbeck showcased all his assets and was arguably the Three Lions best player.
But the summer 2012 signing of Van Persie set Welbeck’s development back. While it allowed United to claim the 2012-13 Premier League title (ironically on the same points total that they accumulated finishing second a year earlier), the place in the side Welbeck had claimed the previous season was lost. Throughout much of the season he was limited to mop-up duty or cup matches. Like many other young English players in recent years, Welbeck seemed to be stagnating or even regressing just as he hit 22.
The prolonged Wayne Rooney transfer saga this summer opened the door for Welbeck to reclaim a place up top and he did so with a brace on the opening day of the season at the Liberty Stadium against Swansea. But injury soon struck and with Manchester United collectively struggling, Welbeck was soon all but forgotten.
From a tactical perspective, having a forward who runs as much as Welbeck does, can push wide, is comfortable on the ball, and tracks back is a dream. But in new manager David Moyes’ usually rigid 4-4-2 formation, his talents are perhaps less noticeable. Yesterday, however, Moyes setup his team in what looked to be a 4-3-3 formation that allowed Welbeck to drift more into the wide areas and run into and link up with the midfield more efficiently.
This sort of formation suits Welbeck’s talents. He is tactically astute, yet needs an open style of play to excel. With Moyes finally showing the willingness to experiment tactically to accommodate the talent at his disposal, Welbeck could be headed for an elongated run in the side during the festive period.
Should the Manchester United forward take this chance and regain his elusive finishing touch, he could be the secret weapon or the forgotten man that Roy Hodgson springs on the world this summer in Brazil.
In the short term however, Welbeck and his Manchester United teammates need to simply focus on regaining consistency and pushing up the table. Sunday’s win was a start and with the other top sides all facing one another this month, it is not unrealistic to believe the Red Devils title hopes could be back on the front burner come January.
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