ROO-BECK: A Premature experiment!
This season saw an unusual change in the strike force at Old Trafford. While Rooney continued his onslaught, his strike partner has changed. Neither the silky Bulgarian got enough chances nor did last season’s poster boy, Chicarito get a run in. It was the young forward Danny Welbeck, making his return after a successful loan stint at the Stadium of Light, who got picked ahead of the experienced forwards. The loan stint was successful not in terms of goals scored but in terms of the experience gained.
Danny was the favorite to start alongside Wazza due to injuries that Chicarito picked up in pre-season. Berbatov was most probably left out due to his lack of pace. But playing Welbeck in some of the crunch games with Chicarito and Berba available has not paid off. I think the Sir Alex got a couple of strategies wrong by starting Welbeck against some quality opposition. It was baffling to see him start as the lone striker at Anfield in the PL game which was drawn thanks to a late equalizer from the super sub Chicarito. The same was seen in the FA cup away fixture at the same venue but thankfully Wazza also started.
Though Danny boy has showed a lot of promise this season, he is still that unpolished diamond. Welbeck has a lot of areas that he needs to improve on. His strength is his stamina and his pace. He sure can run with the ball. But his ability within the box and in one on one situations, raises doubts about his finishing ability. His ball control within the scoring range has been very poor. He has lost the ball on several occasions where even an average striker would have dispatched the ball to the back of the net. His one on one miss against Szczesny in the away fixture at Emirates drew flak from the gaffer himself. Though he later gave a statement saying he twisted his heel in the run up, he could have finished well before trying to get past the keeper. I’m not sure if it is right to throw him onto the pitch when the quality and level of play in the league has been reaching new heights.
Welbeck still has lots to learn about playing with Rooney. The kind of chemistry you expect from the forwards is clearly missing between these two. By the time Rooney has made the through pass, only then Welbeck starts running for the ball and by then the defender would have cleared the ball. This is where Chicharito scores over Welbeck. The understanding between the Mexican and Wazza is a treat to watch. Just when Rooney makes the through-ball without looking up, Chicharito is at the end of the pass and in a clear scoring position. His finishing too has been excellent. You can sense the hunger in Chicharito to receive the pass and finish it. This is seen from the 33 off-side decisions against Chicharito (exactly 50% of the total off –sides United has received!)
Another area of failure for Welbeck has been in his understanding of the play along the left wing. Over the past one and half years a bulk of United’s goals has come from the left flank. You’ve Giggs/Nani/Young along with Evra near the box ready to feed the striker. But Welbeck hasn’t completely utilized the excellent passing from these players. He has ended up losing most of the balls that could have been headed in or blasted past the keeper.
In a crunch game it would definitely be a better choice to start with Rooney and Chicarito. Their chemistry and also their understanding of the wingers has been great. Chicharito has scored ten times coming on as a substitute in 30 games. Only Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has a better record scoring 30 times as a sub. It would be a good idea to have Welbeck replace one of the forwards after the one hour mark if the team is in a good position. Welbeck could also be started alongside Chicarito or Berba against lesser challenging teams.
Welbeck has done a lot of hard work to come through the youth team and break into the first team. I’m sure several other youngsters will draw inspiration from his performances. He is definitely a star in the making. He’s just 21. If he improves his ball control and betters his conversion rate in the box, opposition managers will have lots to worry about. He also, could well be the potential second striker England has been looking for.