Man Utd Focus – Welbeck staking claim ahead of Hernandez

Danny Welbeck continued the strong start he has made to his international career with two goals against San Marino on Friday evening. The 21-year-old has been named in the Manchester United line-up for four of the seven Premier League outings so far this season, with fellow striker Javier Hernandez starting just a solitary game.

Welbeck has yet to find the net for United in the new campaign, whereas Hernandez scored in the 4-0 victory over Wigan at Old Trafford. The Englishman has however been in good form for the Reds, gaining confidence from his continued presence in the side following the big-money signing of Robin van Persie, in addition to the praise he has received thanks to his performances for the national side.

The Longsight-born forward was one of the few positives to emerge from England’s lacklustre Euro 2012 campaign, and has taken the momentum into the new season at his club. There was a danger that the academy graduate would see his playing time reduced thanks to van Persie’s arrival, but Sir Alex Ferguson has shown faith in Welbeck, who perhaps benefitted from Wayne Rooney’s absence through injury.

The two United men both scored braces at Wembley last week, and have an understanding that has been nurtured at Old Trafford. Welbeck possesses strong link-up abilities, and his intelligence with the ball at his feet was a feature of United’s explosive start to last season’s campaign. This time round van Persie has taken most of the headlines thanks to his goalscoring exploits, which has relieved some pressure from Welbeck in respect of finding the net. He will be keen to get off the mark however, with Saturday’s home tie against Stoke potentially providing the opportunity should the manager give him the nod.

Hernandez meanwhile has seen his time on the pitch reduced thanks to the arrival of van Persie and the form of Welbeck. The Mexican has however scored on his last two appearances for his national team, and has the opportunity to add to this run tomorrow night in a home game against El Salvador. The 24-year-old will be hoping to bring some good form and scoring credentials back to Old Trafford, where he has almost been a victim of such an impressive first season at the club.

The difficulty Hernandez faces in winning back his place in Ferguson’s starting line-up is due in a large part to the fact that his interplay and fluidity is not as accomplished as the other strikers at the manager’s disposal. His finishing ability and movement is not in question, but this may not be enough for him to be starting games, especially when the likes of Rooney and van Persie can be considered as proficient finishers.

Ferguson is looking for his winning combination up front that sees a flexible attacking line that can interchange positions and occupy varying pockets of space away from the attentions of prescribed markers. Dimitar Berbatov, despite his many qualities, was not suited to such a system, and Hernandez could be a victim of the same fate if he is not willing to bide his time on the substitutes bench.

Welbeck, on the other hand, has the ability to play both through the middle and out wide, drifting into space and using the ball effectively. These talents could see him being a fixture in the Manchester United side for many years to come.

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