Danny Welbeck: United Found Wayne Rooney's Partner and His Name Isn't Chicharito

Ryan Day@theryanedwardCorrespondent IApril 26, 2012

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - APRIL 22:  Wayne Rooney and Danny Welbeck (R) of Manchester United look dejected as they prepare to kick off after conceding a fourth goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester United and Everton at Old Trafford on April 22, 2012 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
Alex Livesey/Getty Images

There's going to be a lot of big names in Monday night's Manchester derby—Wayne Rooney, Carlos Tevez, David De Gea and Joe Hart just to name a few.

But will anyone be keeping their eye on Danny Welbeck? Will anyone be tracking the 22-year-old's movement along the top of United's formation?

My guess is no, and that's a shame.

I'm not a Manchester United fan. In fact, I hate big clubs.

Here in the States, the equivalent would be the New York Yankees—a baseball team who "buys" its championships through inflated ticket prices, overpaying the league's best players and having enough left over to poach the best prospects from Central America and the Caribbean Islands.

But Danny Welbeck's story isn't one of pampered, incubated success that's driven by flashes of brilliance.

While Welbeck was a product of Manchester United's youth system, he took a few across the chin before he became a regular at Old Trafford. He routinely sat on the bench, waiting patiently for manager Sir Alex Ferguson to put him in.

He finally got to start, but not for Manchester United. Rather, he was loaned out to Championship side Preston North End and then played half a season's worth of games for Sunderland last year.

At the beginning of this season, he was in a rotation of centre-forwards that included Javier Hernandez and Dimitar Berbatov. Ferguson wanted desperately to find the right fit for Wayne Rooney's attacking partner.

Welbeck and Rooney have partnered at forward in each of the last 16 games—a stretch where Rooney has scored 16 goals.
Welbeck and Rooney have partnered at forward in each of the last 16 games—a stretch where Rooney has scored 16 goals.Scott Heavey/Getty Images

Berbatov, while quite the proficient goal scorer, seemed like the kind of man Ferguson didn't want to touch with a 10-foot pole. Hernandez, who was plagued by injuries at the beginning of the season, has yet to (and may never) regain the quality that caused Ferguson to go and pluck him from Primera Division club Chivas de Guadalajara.

Berbatov is falling out of Ferguson's good graces, and Hernandez is—well, falling down. Meanwhile, Welbeck is playing some of the best football for the Red Devils. Despite still learning the game (this is his first full season for a top-flight club) Welbeck is a very strong player who uses his 6'1" frame to have his way with opponents.

As the season comes to a close, Welbeck is ascending. He's growing in his understanding of the game and showing he has what it takes to be an asset—both by scoring and by creating scoring opportunities for teammates, most notably (and most importantly) Wayne Rooney.

In the last four weeks, Ferguson has given Welbeck his most consistent experience at the top of the key with Rooney, and Welbeck has delivered, scoring two goals and assisting on two others.

During the Aston Villa match, it was cemented that Welbeck had something of a partnership with Rooney, combining with the United veteran for three of the team's four goals and leaving Chicharito on the sidelines for the full 90 minutes.

When hosting Everton, the young forward showed why Manchester United thinks of him so highly, displaying some fine skill when he had possession, scoring a howler of a goal from the edge of the box and assisting on Nani's and Rooney's goals in the 60th and 69th minutes, respectively.

These demonstrations show exactly the kind of role Hernandez was brought over to fulfill for United. But instead of a highly touted (and highly priced) Hernandez, it's the hard-working, blue-collar Welbeck who's providing the best option at centre-forward.

With nine goals to Hernandez's 10, Welbeck is gaining ground on the Mexican's offensive output. With four assists to Hernandez's two, Welbeck has already shown he's the better supporting cast.

Ferguson has known for several weeks what the rest of Manchester United's supporters are just now beginning to find out—the best option for Wayne Rooney isn't a fragile youngster like Chicharito, nor is it a divisive veteran like Berbatov.

Danny Welbeck is the answer at centre-forward, both for this season and in the future.


The latest in the sports world, emailed daily.