Danny Welbeck gets some stick from Manchester United fans
Author: Herzog’s Child
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Given his unfortunate ubiquity, there’s a healthy chance you will have encountered Bad Luck Brian. Residing on most social network platforms, the spectacled goofball, complete with retainer-clamped teeth, has been subjected to hundreds of captions describing the catastrophic ends his perpetual misfortune leads him to. Thankfully for Brian, he doesn’t actually exist, but the satire that renders his life one better off unlived prods lightly at those whose existences are marked by misery. The loveable individuals whose excellent intentions are too frequently crapped on by the Gods of Luck – good people, forever wilfully shambling in terribly bad situations. Sometimes, sadly, they’re footballers.
If Danny Welbeck, Manchester United’s young eager-supremo, indulges in a spot of web-surfing, there’s a likelihood that he would nod sagely towards young Brian. Similarly predestined, it would seem, to forever taking the wrong turn, young Daniel has been having it a bit rough of late. While efforts have been gallant and skill in enormous supply, critics have nonetheless circled in with acid bubbling at the brim of their inkwells. Danny’s problems are aplenty but, as is often the case with young players still tip-toeing through the learning process, many of them are not his own. His harshest critics draw swords at his scoring record, paying little respect to the reality of a player played largely out of position. Others have bemoaned his decision-making, ignoring the possibility that young players might – shock horror! – still be honing their trades in the deep-end. And there’s the ever irksome “he’s not United class” line – uttered by the perennially impatient and ignorers of the past. Young players, who in their early days show in their armoury traits that promise great things, should be afforded time. And Manchester United, as history proves, offer the finest school for the imperfect to enrol and iron out their flaws in. It just takes a little time.
In many ways, Welbeck is unfortunate to be playing in an era where things are looked at a little differently. Where before the zesty gallops and ceaseless industry would be met with mass drooling, there now exists a reductionist attitude amongst proponents of the game. Post-match analysis caters little for the imagination now. Reduced to stats and percentages and meticulous autopsies, individual winners are those who, in the name of mathematics, shine brightest. But as any semi-observant supporter will testify, numbers can only tell half a story. In fact, they too often tend to skew. As Welbeck-advocates will declare – and yes, many of us exist – Danny might not be so good on numbers, but recent displays, often played out with a fervent swagger, have offered many pleasantries to the eye. Goals may be dry for now, but one has to look further than mere produce when dealing with youth. In the relentless hounding of blanched backlines, in the quick to and fro of intricate passing movements and in the very fine positional play is a player on the very verge of full blossom.
Cynics will claim that if Welbeck had emerged from outside of Manchester, like so many do, he wouldn’t be getting so much leeway. While such a cutthroat assertion holds merit in certain cases with local youth products, it does both club and player a disservice to suggest it’s the case here. United have frequently got it wrong with players, and still do, but their handling of those who climb the rungs into the first team from the reserves is staggeringly impressive. The doubts cast over Welbeck’s progression were similarly shown towards Darren Fletcher and Jonny Evans, you will recall – two players who, not just through sheer professionalism but also sheer talent, became pivotal. Alex Ferguson is patient with his assets. While derision is bellowed from the stands, the master watches observantly from this throne, his knowing eye not concerned with the mere present but also the many tomorrows to come. He, better than most, realises some youngsters need to stumble before they stand up as men. In Welbeck he has a player who has been at Manchester United longer than most of the first team. Having excelled at all youth levels, where from the beginning he set pulses throbbing with a rare blend of skill and grace, Danny has earned the required time to reveal the true excellence lurking within.
The greatest crime of the football supporter is a preoccupation with the present. With everything residing in the here and now, little patience or attention is allocated to the future and what it may hold. Manchester United supporters are as guilty as anyone else. It’s why so few offered true resistance to the Glazer monster – for now, while things seem rosy, all that matters to most is the team and what they can win. The media wilfully indulge in it, too. Rather than accept the reality of transitory periods, scapegoats are created and young players, still trying to acclimatise to the cold insanity of the footballer’s life, are openly vilified. Players like David de Gea, and Danny Welbeck. Little appreciation is shown towards the struggles of the young footballer. The belief is that because they’re already wealthy, they should already be absolute. We should, if right was right, actually embrace the sight of the flawed youngster. While it’s all good and nice to see a player at the peak of his powers, there is also a particular appeal in seeing the young prospect make mistakes from which he will learn. Away from the raw hunger for silverware, football offers treats that not enough appreciate. Only when their time is up are footballers properly understood. The passing of time affords us the opportunities to look back and realise. We see that, contrary to the delusions that the present forces on us, all wasn’t always dandy. We remember the mistakes, the prolonged periods where little but disappointment seemed probable, and often we chortle at the madness of the opinions we once held. Danny Welbeck should be enjoyed now as much as he will be when he finally believes in his own ability. There is a resolute side to his style – a determination that suggests what is going wrong now will be righted through sheer perseverance. So, when the ball is mistimed, or not controlled, or doesn’t hit the net when it really should, don’t wince; some players are just worth it. The future has a habit of making us look foolish.