The sale of striker Danny Welbeck to Arsenal raised eyebrows of a few Manchester United legends (most notably, Paul Scholes and Gary Neville), but according to the Red Devils’ manager, the decision to sell a player who’d been part of the club since he was nine years old came down to something obvious: Welbeck’s not as good as Robin van Persie, Wayne Rooney, or Radamel Falcao.
That was Louis van Gaal’s explanation when he spoke to the media on Thursday, saying both Welbeck and Real Madrid loanee Javier ‘Chicharito’ Hernandez had their chance to win a place in the squad. Ultimately, neither could meet the standards of a loaded United attack.
“I have given all the players a chance to convince me of their qualities,” Van Gaal said. “Yes, Danny Welbeck was here from when he was nine. He has played, after [his 2010-11 loan at] Sunderland, three seasons at Manchester United but he doesn’t have the record of [Robin] Van Persie or [Wayne] Rooney and that is the standard. That is why we let him go – because of Falcao but also the youngsters who can fit in.”
That Welbeck would have struggled for playing time, nobody questions. The implicit concern (beyond selling to Arsenal) is expensive attackers from outside being prioritized over a useful player on the books. And doesn’t the Manchester native’s 14-year history with the club count for anything?
More from van Gaal:
“We spoke with Danny Welbeck and also Chicharito before there was the chance we could get Falcao. We have to be fair about that because, for example, I see in that part [of the pitch] we have a lot of youth that can fit in. That is the policy and that is why I am here – to do that transformation, in this new process.”
Let’s assume van Gaal’s right in his assessment, and young players can fit in. Even if Welbeck is better than them now, he’s still waiting for van Persie and Falcao to fade out before getting more playing time. And once that happens, United’s younger players may be ready to take that time from Welbeck.
If that’s the case, Welbeck’s place at the club comes down to loyalty, and while that’s an admirable trait, there’s a point where that becomes harmful. With Welbeck just entering his prime and Arsenal willing to pay top dollar, neither side would have been served by forgoing the sale.
In the face of other needs, should United have made Welbeck expendable in the first place? Well, that’s a different discussion. Given how the summer unfolded, Welbeck’s move made sense, for all involved.