For Manchester United, being able to call upon Danny Welbeck and Javier Hernandez in the absence of Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney speaks volumes of the squad’s depth in attack. When it comes down to a straight shootout between the pair, however, there’s only one winner.
Welbeck must start ahead of Hernandez.
Having scored only one goal in the Premier League last season, Welbeck has already registered six goals from nine appearances in the current campaign (per WhoScored.com). That’s a remarkable turnaround for someone with such a poor goalscoring record in recent years.
Hernandez is one of the deadliest finishers in the Premier League, of course, but his all-round game is not conducive to United’s style of play. When you analyse both strikers closely, it becomes readily apparent that Welbeck offers more to United than his Mexican counterpart.
Analysing Welbeck and Hernandez vs. Norwich
It seems pertinent to reflect on the strikers' performances against Norwich, given that both featured in the absence of van Persie and Rooney.
Such analysis only strengthens the argument to start Welbeck over Hernandez, because Welbeck changed the game when he came off the bench.
That “unconvincing performance” was partly due to Hernandez being isolated up front in the first half. Until Welbeck came on, there was no link between midfield and attack. The Mexican plays on the shoulder of the last defender, and his desire to run in behind the defence time after time meant that United couldn’t get a foothold in the Norwich half.
Welbeck changed that.
He is no No. 10, of course, but he linked the play well and ensured that United moved up the pitch as a unit. His composure to score the winning goal was rather reminiscent of the man who played alongside him in the second half—as pointed out by ESPN’s Musa Okwonga.
Welbeck delivered where Hernandez failed against Norwich. It becomes evident why that’s the case when you examine the wider context.
Welbeck Has More to Offer Than Hernandez in General Play
In recent weeks, Welbeck has interchanged nicely with those around him.
Aside from the fact that he notched a brace against Aston Villa, it was Welbeck’s ability to link up with his teammates that won the game. Hernandez’s repeated failure to hold the ball up and offer something other than goals is a concern; in fact, it’s questionable whether he would have such a fine goalscoring record if he had played for a lesser club.
For Welbeck, though, this season just keeps on getting better.
His understanding with Rooney led to the latter’s equaliser against Hull City on Boxing Day, and the pair’s strike partnership will only continue to flourish given the form they’re in.
It’s very much clear that Welbeck has more to offer than Hernandez, a view that United fans are beginning to express:
Modern-day strikers have to be able to do more than just score goals. Sadly, Hernandez is limited in other aspects. And so, with goals added to his game, it’s only right that Welbeck lies ahead of Hernandez in the pecking order.
Welbeck’s Long-Term Potential Is Better Than Hernandez’s
Whilst it’s difficult to envisage what direction David Moyes will take his squad in, there’s no doubt that Welbeck has much greater long-term potential.
He’s more versatile, he’s more athletic and—if he can score goals consistently—he’s more likely to be part of the starting XI. That’s especially true when van Persie retires or moves on. Moyes will look to sign another world-class striker, rather than trust in Hernandez to lead the line.
That’s the unfortunate truth for the Mexican, looking ahead.
Welbeck, meanwhile, was lauded by Moyes following the victory over Norwich, as the Scot was keen to point out how important Welbeck is to United (via the Manchester Evening News):
Danny has been playing very well and came on to make the difference today. If you look at Danny now, he is a big part of Manchester United. He is a really good player, what he needs to become now is a really good finisher.
Praise indeed from Moyes, who will have a hard time leaving Welbeck out of the side when both Van Persie and Rooney are fit. The decision to leave Hernandez out is a little easier and, ultimately, that’s what it comes down to.
So Why Does Welbeck Get the Nod?
It’s simple: Welbeck has the better all-round game.
Once he adds goals to his arsenal on a consistent basis, then he will become a key player for club and country. The fact that Rooney is his strike partner for both United and England will only aid the young forward’s development.
After all, he is only 23 years old.
Hernandez, on the other hand, will soon have a big decision to make. He cannot be guaranteed a place in the starting XI, having failed to impress when called upon. It would be surprising if he decided to move on before the 2014 World Cup, but it’s looking increasingly likely that he won’t be at Old Trafford for too much longer.
That shouldn’t dishearten United fans too much, though.
If Welbeck continues to improve, then United will have a fantastic player on their hands. He’s still a little raw and erratic, but there are too many positives in his game to ignore the long-term benefits of investing trust in him now.
For this season, United fans should celebrate having four genuinely top-class strikers at the club. If the time comes when Moyes has to pick between Welbeck and Hernandez, however, Welbeck must be selected ahead of Hernandez.