Fergie sets stiff target for WelbeckComment on this story
Sir Alex Ferguson has challenged Danny Welbeck to break the 20-goal barrier to prove he can be a top-class striker for Manchester United.
Although there have been sporadic claims of interest from United in Robin van Persie, who has decided not to renew his contract with Arsenal, it rather overlooks Welbeck's impressive development.
Tipped by Ferguson as an outsider for England's 2010 World Cup squad, the 21-year-old took slightly longer to make his mark than his manager thought.
For it was this summer, at Euro 2012, that Welbeck announced his arrival on the international stage, fending off Andy Carroll to become England's number one target man.
Welbeck started all four games in Ukraine, scoring a spectacular winner against Sweden in Kiev, doubling an England tally that began the previous month with the winner against Belgium.
However, when he reports for duty at United's Carrington training complex later this month, Welbeck faces an even more formidable challenge, living up to his manager's high expectations.
And for that he will need to increase his output from the 12 goals he scored last term, nine of which came in the Premier League.
“Danny can be a top player but obviously he will have to improve his goalscoring,” said Ferguson.
“He got nine goals last season but if you are going to be a top striker you have to get 20 or above.
“I think he will do that.”
Brought up in the same Longsight district of Manchester as Wes Brown, United have taken a keen interest in Welbeck from a very early age.
It is a good job too as it allowed more thorough treatment of injuries that otherwise might have halted his progress.
“He's always had growth spurts and all little things like weak knees and weak thighs. It was happening all the time,” said Ferguson.
“So we fostered him from the age of nine right through that period when he was developing.”
And, for defenders at any rate, the nightmare is that Ferguson does not feel Welbeck has completed that physical development yet.
“He's not got his full body yet,” he said. “There's a lot of growth in him yet.
“At 6ft 3in, I don't think he'll get taller, it will go the other way, and he is very powerful already.
“He's got good movement and courage, plus confidence on the ball. And he showed maturity at the Euros by playing three games in seven days, which he has certainly not done for us before.”
In fact, the only difficulty United are encountering with Welbeck just now is the frustrating amount of time it is taking to negotiate a new contract for the striker, whose present deal expires in 12 months' time.
“It's difficult to say where we are with that at this moment in time,” admitted the Scot. – Belfast Telegraph