In a way Daniel Sturridge’s thigh injury sustained in Liverpool’s 2-2 draw with Manchester City, saves England manager Roy Hodgson a selection headache ahead of the national team’s friendly with Brazil this week.
Sturridge has been forced to withdraw from the England squad but is hopeful of a steadfast recovery, in time for Liverpool’s clash with West Brom next Monday.
Hodgson now has available for selection up front Wayne Rooney, Danny Welbeck, and Theo Walcott after Tottenham’s Jermaine Defoe also pulled out with an ankle injury.
Hodgson will likely play the two United forwards who have performed well as a partnership for England in recent games. But, with Sturridge’s fine form since moving to Liverpool from Chelsea in January, I wonder whether Welbeck may have made the starting line-up, had Sturridge have been passed fit.
Welbeck has struggled, understandably, to force his way into United’s front line with the form and class of Robin van Persie, Wayne Rooney, and Javier Hernandez. In fact, Welbeck has made just 10 starts in the Premier League this term for United – he’s 11 appearances as a substitute in all competitions and has managed to net just one solitary goal.
He has performed well from wider areas but still not well enough to dislodge Antonio Valencia, Ashley Young, and Nani in any great capacity. Furthermore, United have now signed young England starlet Wilfried Zaha which surely must be both a concern and a consideration for his future at both club and international level.
Sturridge had found himself in a similar situation at Chelsea, where he played out of his preferred position on the wing due to the formidable form of Didier Drogba, the confidence placed in an underwhelming Fernando Torres.
However, since moving to Merseyside, Sturridge has found his feet – literally. He’s already scored 4 goals in 6 appearances, 3 in 4 in the league, and has made a dangerous partnership with Luis Suarez. At Liverpool, Sturridge now has the perfect opportunity to flourish and I wonder whether Welbeck will be granted the same opportunity by United manager Sir Alex Ferguson.
The only advantage Welbeck has over Sturridge is the understanding he has with United teammate Wayne Rooney but, from the looks of it, Sturridge has the edge on him in terms of pace, power, strength, technique, finishing and assisting.
They are separated in age by just over a year and, at this stage in their careers, respectively; Welbeck may find his position in the England setup increasingly tenuous.
With the World Cup in Brazil just over a year away, Welbeck’s best bet might be to go out on loan or convert to a winger at club level because, if he continues to warm the bench and be left out for the ‘big games’ by Ferguson, he might find himself left out at national level.
He needs games and I’m not altogether sure where and how he’s going to get regular first-team football at Manchester United in his preferred position in the immediate future.
image: © vagueonthehow