Club: Manchester United
Date of Birth: November 26th 1990
Place of Birth: Manchester, England
Previous Club(s): None
A tall, lean and gangly forward, the initial impression you might get from Daniel Welbeck is that he’s a winger, or a support striker. His languid, elongated style suggests that, and whilst he can do a job in those roles, he’s very much a striker, and a clinical finisher. He made his Manchester United youth team debut aged 15 and featured heavily in his first season as a scholar in 2006/07, scoring 9 goals at an average of one every three games. His progression into Reserve football followed the season after, a year in which he was even more prolific at academy level and backed up his huge potential with regular goals at the next level up at the age of 17.
It was during this campaign that he was called into Sir Alex Ferguson’s first-team squad, initially for a mid-season friendly in Saudi Arabia. He made his first appearance during this testimonial for Sami Al-Jaber, and immediately impressed, winning a penalty – which he ultimately missed. Nonetheless, his performance caught the eye of Ferguson, and gave a clearer indication of the rapid nature of his progress.
Born to Ghanaian parents, Welbeck’s international future is still open, but as a representative of England at multiple levels, his loyalties currently lie to the country of his birth. A clinical finisher with consummate composure and deceptive physical strength combined with intelligent link-up play and technical ability to die for, United have a fantastic player on their hands.
2008/09 has been the season where Welbeck truly exploded onto the scene and justified his number one ranking in this list, a place he held before the campaign started. Early season appearances in the Carling Cup against Middlesbrough and QPR resulted in decent, if not great outings, including a penalty won against the Super Hoops. Yet it was his Premier League debut against Stoke in November that really set tongues wagging. A late substitute in a game United were comprehensively winning, Welbeck picked up the ball some 35 yards from goal and unleashed an absolute missile which kept rising on its way into the top corner for the fourth goal of a 5-0 win.
Such a goal encouraged Ferguson to show faith in his young talent, and the appearances kept coming in the FA Cup. Daniel rewarded his manager with goals against Southampton and Derby, the latter in particular a fabulously curled finish reminiscent of Thierry Henry in his pomp. Remaining in such fine scoring form at Reserve level too, and becoming an England Under-21 international, Welbeck was given a starting place at Wembley for Man Utd’s Carling Cup Final team. He didn’t have the greatest of games, but secured his first trophy as a professional. It won’t be his last.