Danny Welbeck and Wayne Rooney have spent a lot of time on the pitch together at Manchester United and with the English national team, so it’s going to be a little weird when the two face off on Saturday at 12:30 pm ET on NBC.
Perhaps complicating the situation more is that the pair just completed a rollicking pair of wins as England stars on the international break, and Welbeck, of course, is at Arsenal.
The 6-foot, 23-year-old striker has two goals and two assists in 8 Premier League matches for Arsenal this season, plus a trio of goals in the UEFA Champions League. His fine form after being sold by his hometown club has, quite obviously, not escaped the eyes of his manager Arsene Wenger.
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“You can take every challenge in a positive way and that’s what he did,” Wenger said. “Rooney and van Persie have an exceptional goalscoring record and in front of him he had two top-quality players with goalscoring records. What he needed was a chance.”
For his part, Welbeck has been adjusting to life in London.
“It’s a bit different in London, because obviously I was born and bred in Manchester so that’s a place I know like the back of my hand. I went to school there and you really get to know the city. Manchester is much smaller so you do know a lot of people in the vicinity,” he added.
“Growing up there, we played lots of different schools and you’d see people you knew in town all the time. I used to get two buses to school and you’d see more or less everyone in the city centre, so I kind of knew everyone around my age group.
“There were a lot of people in Manchester that I was connected to so it is a bit different coming to London and not knowing as many people.”
He does know Rooney, and Manchester United’s captain has admitted that Saturday will be a different experience for both players and fans. But like Welbeck and Wenger, he thinks it was the right move for the player.
“Of course, Danny has been here all of his life,” Rooney told MUTV. “He is a Manchester lad so it is weird seeing him [there]. But that’s football nowadays and players move on.
“I think, for Danny, and for his own personal career, it was probably the best move for him. He’s done great and scored a few goals and is playing well. Danny gives you what he always gives you – a good shift. He works hard for the team.”
Welbeck is used to being on the side of the favorites in this matchup, as Manchester United has dominated the series in recent years. But given United’s shaky month, Welbeck will again be favored to pick up all three points, weird or not.