After the encouragement of his breakthrough season at Manchester United had culminated in an impressive showing for England at Euro 2012, the 21-year-old suddenly found himself at a crossroads.
On the eve of the new season, United spent 24 million pounds on reigning player of the year Robin van Persie to improve its chances of dethroning new champion Manchester City.
Demotion at club level for Welbeck was swiftly followed by demotion from the national team. All through no apparent fault of his own, or tangible downturn in his form.
|OH DANNY BOY
But Welbeck has begun to fight back. By scoring his first goals of the season in his 13th outing for club and country, he has demonstrated that he can still be a match-winner despite the many obstacles blocking his path to a regular starting slot in his favorite center forward role for United.
Delivering a man-of-the-match performance against a team ranked 202 places below England in the FIFA rankings may not be the proudest moment of Welbeck’s burgeoning career.
But his display will have been noted not only by Roy Hodgson on the England bench as he weighs up his options for the testing trip to Warsaw to face Poland on Tuesday, but also Sir Alex Ferguson.
After being relegated to the bench for the September World Cup qualifiers against Moldova and Ukraine, Welbeck was given the nod ahead of the in-form Jermain Defoe, who is a booking away from a suspension.
The forward repaid the manager’s faith. Immediately after hitting the post with a left-foot shot as he demonstrated the lack of precision that occasionally lets him down, Welbeck won the penalty that Rooney emphatically converted to break the deadlock and set England on its way.
Two minutes later, Welbeck showed his cute backheel against Sweden at Euro 2012 was no fluke by replicating it with an almost identical flick.
It was a welcome response to critics who claim that he does not have the sophistication to match his pace, work ethic and ingenuity outside the box.
He doubled his account for the match, and the season, after 72 minutes, stabbing in from close range Tom Cleverley’s cross from the byline.
Any praise for Welbeck must be tempered by the direness of the opposition but there was evidence of the weapons that make him a far more rounded tip of England’s offensive blade than the likes of Defoe and Andy Carroll.
The trip to Poland will require a centre-forward who can relieve the pressure on the rest of the team when they manoeuvre the ball upfield.
Playing with his back to goal and bringing others into play have never been Defoe’s greatest strengths, while Carroll does not possess the speed or ingenuity to thrive on the counter-attack.
If you were to pin Rooney down, he would most likely admit that Welbeck would be his preferred partner in Warsaw in Hodgson’s favoured split-striker system. The manager must make it happen.Follow Wayne Veysey on Twitter
- Danny Welbeck
- Manchester United
- Tom Cleverley
- Wayne Rooney