A Manchester United fan and up until August 2014, the only club he ever played for, Danny Welbeck returned to Old Trafford for the first time as an opposing player on Monday with new club Arsenal.
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Welbeck scored the winning goal to send the Gunners into the semifinals of the FA Cup after a hard-fought 2-1 win at the Theatre of Dreams.
The England international forward was born and raised in Manchester as a United fan and speaking after the game, Welbeck revealed that “it was hard” to knock his boyhood club out of the competition.
“Manchester United is a club that means so much to me,” Welbeck said. “I’m a fan and it’s hard to knock them out. I’ll always respect the fans, I had a lovely reception from them and I’m thankful for that.”
Welbeck, 24, celebrated his winning goal vibrantly after rounding David De Gea in the 74th minute following a shocking back pass from Antonio Valencia played him in. Many players who return to former clubs decline to celebrate if they score a goal, but it was refreshing to see Welbeck scream with delight and punch the air. You got the sense that Louis van Gaal telling him he was surplus to requirements hurt Welbeck and Monday was payback time.
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On Monday, he returned to deliver a fatal blow to United’s only possible hope of winning silverware this season. Was van Gaal correct to let Welbeck go? One goal doesn’t prove if he was right or wrong, but the United boss certainly isn’t losing any sleep over allowing Welbeck to leave Old Trafford and has no regrets over plumping for the more expensive services of Radamel Falcao who, once again, was an unused substitute on Monday.
“He [Falcao] has scored four goals, had three or four assists and he stimulates the other players, so that is an aspect of the profession,” van Gaal told reporters afterwards. “But it is now easy for you to say that and you are happy to say that.”
Arsenal, the current FA Cup holders, will face Reading or Bradford City in the semifinals at Wembley on April 18/19, as Welbeck and Co. are the red-hot favorites to retain their trophy and finish the season strong to finish in the top four. As for United, van Gaal’s first season in charge now hinges on his charges regrouping as the final 10 games of the Premier League season looms and a top four finish hangs in the balance.