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Manchester United 2012-13 player review: Danny Welbeck

Danny Welbeck provided Manchester United plenty this season, but quite obviously, the one major blemish on his season was his poor goalsoring record.

Mike Hewitt

The Busby Babe continues with the eighteenth installment of our 2012-13 Manchester United player reviews. Next up is Danny Welbeck.

* Manchester United 2012-13 season review

I'm going to be dividing each of the player reviews into three categories: 'what was expected' will be a brief and general explanation of what the expectations were for the player prior to the season's start, 'what we got' will typically be the section with the most depth as this will be the heart of the review, and 'what's next?' will be an examination of the player's future at United.

What was expected

After spending a few seasons out on loan to Preston North End and Sunderland, Welbeck was given a chance to break into the first-team at United in the 2011-12 season -- and the then 20-year-old impressed. By last season's end, the United youth academy product had scored 12 goals in 39 appearances and he was preferred over Javier Hernandez (Chicharito) and Dimitar Berbatov as Wayne Rooney's partner up front. The duo developed a wonderful understanding and this was perhaps most evident by a beautifully worked goal that they combined for against Everton in April 2012:


via Beautifully Red

In the past summer, United acquired Robin van Persie and Shinji Kagawa and as a result, there was some concern that Welbeck could be blocked in attack -- with RvP, Kagawa, Rooney, and Chicharito also around, that would be five very talented attackers looking to fill two central spots up front. Welbeck, though, is very versatile and able to play out wide. Therefore, there still seemed to be a possibility that he could make another 30+ appearances this season, even if he would likely get less of them in his preferred central role.

What we got


GS (sub)






Avg P

Pass %

FT %



C %





13 (14)





23.1 %


86.8 %

82.5 %



33.3 %





5 (2)







81.2 %








* GS: games started (substituted appearances),G = goals scored, A = assists, Min/G = minutes per goal, SH/gm = shot attempts per game, SOT % = shots on target %, Avg P = average passes per game, Pass % = passing accuracy percentage, FT % = final third passing accuracy percentage, KP = chances created per game, C = successful crosses per game, C% = successful crossing rate,TB = successful through balls per game, DRB = successful dribbles per game, FW = fouls won per game

Overall, Welbeck's season was a mixed bag and if I were to give him an overall rating, I'd probably go with a 6. He actually made one more appearance this season (40) in comparison to the previous campaign, however, he made four less starts. And according to, he only made six combined Premier League and UEFA Champions League starts in a central-attacking role.

Let's get it out of the way -- the one major blemish on Welbz's season is his goal return. Even though he was shunted out wide the majority of the time or used as a substitute for nearly half of his appearances, he still should have scored more goals. The hope heading into this season was that the England international would actually improve on his 12 goals from the 2011-12 campaign and instead, he only scored twice.

The 22-year-old simply hasn't displayed the same finishing ability as the four other players he competes with for a central-attacking role. For example, Chicharito put 52.3% of his Premier League attempts on target, Kagawa 47.6%, van Persie 46.1%, and Rooney 40.7%. Welbeck only put 23.1% of his shot attempts on target.

Fortunately for the Englishman, he provides United so much more than just goalscoring (or a lack of it) and Callum recently did well to explain some of Welbeck's virtues in a piece for SB Nation:

'Welbeck is another player who suffers from misconceptions - the idea of him as primarily a willing runner, a physical, powerful forward with energy. He has that, but his real strength is his technique and imagination. An increased emphasis on specialisation with players leads to the same thing being played out in the media, as players are increasingly pigeonholed into certain roles - Welbeck is difficult to quantify, and rather than just enjoying him and letting him play, there seems to be a worrying obsession over exactly what sort of player he is.

We've seen enough spectacular goals and moments of skill from Welbeck to know that he's worth persevering with, and a move to a more fluid style of play from United should benefit him. That way, it's of less concern that he's sidelined on the wing if he has a greater freedom to come inside and do more damage. Again, a more durable and creative midfield will work wonders for aiding the transition.'

The only thing I would add is to point out how intelligent Welbeck's movement is. His link-up play is a strength because of his technique and clever movement. He has a knack at both finding space and creating it for others when he drags defenders out of position. This subtlety goes unnoticed by far too many supporters.

Welbeck's two best performances this season came in two of United's biggest matches -- the two-legged Champions League knock-out tie with Spanish giants Real Madrid. In the first-leg at the Bernabeu, United were set up to play on the counterattack and the out-ball for the first hour of the match was to Welbeck on the left. The Englishman used his power, pace, and ability to carry the ball forward to be a threat and he got the best of Madrid right-back Alvaro Arbeola. For his final 20 minutes of that match, he moved into the No.10 role so that he could nullify the influential deep-lying Xabi Alonso -- and he did this tactical job fairly well. It was fitting that he was the goalscorer that night for United as he was arguably United's best outfield player.


via Beautifully Red

In the return leg at Old Trafford, Welbeck started in the No.10 role and he once again was tasked with doing a defensive job on Alonso -- and the Englishman had the Spaniard in his pocket. Again United played on the counter and they looked most dangerous when Welbeck picked up the ball and ran past Alonso or when he combined with Nani on the left. On the biggest of stages, the 22-year-old arguably gave his two best performances in a United shirt.

What's next?

Welbeck is only 22-years-old so there's still plenty of time for him to further his development. Quite obviously, the thing we'd all like to see more from him is goals. Sir Alex Ferguson clearly rated the England international and there's no reason to think that new manager David Moyes won't do the same. If Rooney leaves this summer, and if no replacement follows him, then Welbeck likely will get more games next season in a central-attacking role. However, he'll also likely be shunted out wide at times because he still has to compete with van Persie, Chicharito, and Kagawa. Welbeck's all-round game and versatility should get him plenty of matches next season.