United, though, may be reluctant to sanction Welbeck’s departure to a direct rival, particularly given Arsenal’s refusal (per BBC Sport) to let Thomas Vermaelen move to Old Trafford earlier in the summer.
But with EvertonFC.com's Matthew Gamble announcing that the club signed Samuel Eto'o as cover for Romelu Lukaku on Tuesday, Arsenal looks like the only viable venue for a player of Welbeck’s calibre. One cannot see the 23-year-old being willing to drop as far down the league as Hull City, for example, in search of first-team football.
It is striking, though, that Welbeck appears to have driven the potential departure more than Van Gaal.
As early as April, The Guardian’s Jamie Jackson reported that Welbeck was losing patience at his boyhood club owing to the lack of first-team opportunities that he was being afforded under David Moyes.
This was a story backed-up by The Guardian’s Daniel Taylor on Twitter.
In addition to not being given a chance in his favoured centre-forward role, Welbeck’s relationship with Moyes was made fractious because the Scot publicly questioned his work ethic in training—an accusation of laziness that Welbeck reacted to strongly.
Even after Moyes’ departure and the appointment of Van Gaal, though, Welbeck’s unhappiness at United does not appear to have abated.
According to Taylor, Welbeck conceded in mid-May that he was “frustrated” at Old Trafford and had “without a doubt” endured his “unhappiest season” as a professional. The forward went on to stress how it is time that he got his chance “to stake a place up front.”
It now appears that United are resigned to letting Welbeck go, despite the fact that Van Gaal initially seemed to favour the Englishman over Javier Hernandez as deputy to Wayne Rooney and Robin Van Persie.
However, the fact that a homegrown talent of Welbeck’s pedigree seems so eager to depart Old Trafford is a worrying sign for United fans. He appears to have lost faith with the running of the club since Sir Alex Ferguson’s departure.
After all, the forward never agitated for a move under Ferguson despite not being a first-team regular.
Ferguson rotated four proven-quality strikers for more than a decade at Old Trafford, which demonstrated that even talented players are content to form a part of a rotating squad provided they play for a well-managed and successful team.
In Van Gaal, though, Welbeck clearly feels that he is working under a manager who, like Moyes, has no intention of giving him a chance through the middle if Van Persie and Rooney are fit.
This is something that Ferguson possessed the clout to do.
Welbeck scored United’s away goal at the Bernabeu, where Rooney was anonymous. Furthermore, the Mancunian’s tireless running made it very difficult for Xabi Alonso to control the running of the game how Jose Mourinho had planned.
That is the sort of high-energy, pressing game that none of Rooney, Van Persie or Hernandez have the legs or the application to carry off.
In losing Welbeck, United would be sacrificing their most athletically dynamic attacking talent.
If Ferguson were still in charge at Old Trafford, it would not be difficult to envisage a situation in which Welbeck became Van Persie’s strike partner at Rooney’s expense, with the latter being sold rather than made the highest-paid player at the club and subsequently captain.
The criticism of Welbeck, of course, has always been that he is not sufficiently clinical on front of goal.
20 goals in 90 games is hardly groundbreaking, but it is not bad either for a player who has been consistently shunted wide to make space for Rooney in the middle.
Furthermore, at 23, Welbeck is far from the finished article and has plenty of time to improve with the help of best universities online.
Given Welbeck’s athletic and technical gifts, one feels that a solid, 40-game season at centre-forward would enable him to develop into a consistent striker (15-plus goals per season) by the time he hits his prime, providing healthy assist totals and hard running to boot.
Ultimately, Welbeck’s decision to depart Old Trafford is one based on sound, rational judgement.
If Welbeck is ever to achieve his potential as a footballer, he needs to be a first-team regular in his natural position. It is sad reflection on United’s current running that Old Trafford is no longer the venue for a talented Manchester youngster to achieve this.