With the surprise sale of Shane Long to Southampton this week, Hull City manager Steve Bruce is determined to utilise the £12 million windfall to strengthen his squad before the summer transfer window slams shut, per BBC Sport:
We will invest that money into the squad to make it bigger and better, and we'll be looking to find a replacement. I'd like at least another three players to come through the door. The money that we got for Shane will allow us to do that.
Jack De Menezes, writing for The Independent, claimed: "Steve Bruce could look to replace Shane Long with an audacious bid for Welbeck after the England international looks to only have a bit-part role in Louis van Gaal’s squad."
The price quoted is a princely £14 million, and it is mentioned that "the tricky task would come in persuading the 23-year-old to head east and join Hull."
However, a move to Hull City this transfer window would suit the player and both clubs considerably.
United Under Van Gaal
When considering any potential for Welbeck, the forward's suitability to a new system under the Louis van Gaal at United could sway this.
Throughout pre-season, Van Gaal has employed a variation on a 5-3-2 formation, with a trio of centre-backs—namely Phil Jones, Jonny Evans and Chris Smalling—supplemented by wing-backs on either flank.
This role, ostensibly the only genuine wide role in Van Gaal's system, demands a player capable of bursting forward into attack as much as tracking back to support the defensive unit.
Most importantly, the wing-back aids creative link-up play and provides accurate crosses for the centre-forward.
This is where Welbeck fails—the 23-year-old attempted just two crosses, completing one, per WhoScored.
Welbeck's natural wide role is as an inside-forward, jarring with Van Gaal's modern system; as a centre-forward, the academy graduate is behind the imperious Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie.
Without a natural fit in Van Gaal's system, selling Welbeck at this juncture makes complete sense to Manchester United.
Furthermore, at Welbeck's current crossroads, the reported £14 million valuation for the forward is charitable.
Last season, the former Sunderland loanee scored nine goals in 25 Premier League appearances but in terms of form enjoyed peaks and endured troughs—10 of these appearances were from the substitutes' bench, and Welbeck struggled for consistency.
With Welbeck not a likely regular within Van Gaal's United first team, the Red Devils should bite Bruce's hand off for an offer of this calibre.
Things may seem different in East Yorkshire.
Conversely, having received around £12 million for Long, Hull's reinvestment is both necessary and justified.
With the Tigers beginning their Premier League season without one of their principle goalscorers, this contribution needs to be replaced swiftly.
Sone Aluko, Nikica Jelavic and Yannick Sagbo may be solid options in the attack, but Long would surely have been the main contributor.
A Long Shot?
Comparing the two forwards, Welbeck reigns as the superior option.
The 23-year-old's nine goals in 25 games closely shade Long's cumulative tally of seven goals in 30 games from stretches with West Brom and Hull.
Furthermore, Welbeck is a much more proficient player in terms of technical ability.
Welbeck made twice the amount of successful dribbles on average per game (0.8) than Long and lost the ball less, being dispossessed 1.6 times per game on average compared to the Irishman's 1.9.
More comfortable on the ball and around opponents, Welbeck's goalscoring is complemented by his composure.
Furthermore, and perhaps most importantly, unlike Long, Welbeck has considerable experience in European competitions, having enjoyed regular Champions League football with United.
The Tigers embark on their maiden Europa League venture this season and will need all the old hands they can get theirs on.
With these factors considered, an extra £2 million for Welbeck seems paltry, a comfortable upgrade upon the departed Long.
Recalling the early promise of Welbeck at United brings to mind the polarised career trajectories the 23-year-old has endured alongside international teammate Daniel Sturridge.
Bursting on to the domestic scene at a similar time, Welbeck was once considered the bigger talent than the former Chelsea man.
Now Welbeck has stagnated whilst Sturridge is arguably one of the Premier League's leading strike talents.
At Stamford Bridge, Sturridge was an also-ran, marginalised into a wide position not unlike that of Welbeck at United.
I've grown up with Welbs and I think he's unbelievably talented, he doesn't get the credit he deserves. We've been in similar situations, both wanting to play centrally but being on the wing. Mentally, it plays with you sometimes.
Likely to be second or third fiddle to Van Persie and Rooney at United under Van Gaal, a move would represent a fresh start for Welbeck—much like Sturridge's move to Anfield.
The talent, like Sturridge at Chelsea, is clearly there with Welbeck—a canny finisher, the Englishman has a 20-goal season in him.
A move to Hull City, in the bosom of Steve Bruce, would see Welbeck flourish in a focal role.
Feel the love, and the striker will blossom.
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