• Premier League

'United identity broken by Welbeck sale'

ESPN staff
September 2, 2014
Welbeck, a shrewd bit of business?

Manchester United have "broken" their identity by selling Danny Welbeck to Arsenal, according to the club's former assistant manager Mike Phelan.

Welbeck, 23, had been at United since the age of eight and came through the ranks to score 29 goals in 142 appearances.

However, following United's deadline day capture of Radamel Falcao on a £6 million loan deal from Monaco, Welbeck was allowed to join Arsenal for £16m.

Wenger's transfer coup

Danny Welbeck joined Arsenal for £16m © Getty Images
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"Danny Welbeck has been part of United's identity and that has been broken," Phelan told BBC Sport. "What will happen in the future now, nobody knows but that thread has been broken now."

Louis van Gaal has splashed over £150m this summer at United, with Angel Di Maria recruited for a British record fee of £59.7m. United have also brought in Ander Herrera for £29m from Athletic Bilbao, left-back Luke Shaw for £27m from Southampton, £16m Marcos Rojo from Sporting Lisbon and Daley Blind from Ajax for £13.8m.

In contrast, academy prospects Tom Lawrence and Michael Keane left on Monday in respective permanent and loan deals, to promoted sides Leicester and Burnley. Young midfielder Nick Powell has also joined Leicester on loan.

It is a far cry from the days of the 'Class of 92', when former manager Sir Alex Ferguson brought the likes of Paul Scholes, David Beckham, Ryan Giggs and Phil and Gary Neville through the youth ranks into his first-team.

Van Gaal has, though, blooded 20-year-old centre-back Tyler Blackett in his first three Premier League games due to injuries while left-back Reece James and goalkeeper Ben Amos have featured in the match-day squad.

However, Phelan, who worked as part of Ferguson's coaching staff between 2008 and 2013, feels the club's recent big spending signals a change in philosophy at United.

"There is always the start of something and maybe this is the start of a new way of doing things at Manchester United and maybe that is the way football is going," he added.

"Is it better to look at the instant rather than the future? It is a difficult one because youth is always the future, we all have to start somewhere and you just hope that product of youth can develop in the Premier League."

Rene Meulensteen, who worked alongside Phelan on Ferguson's coaching staff, also expressed his surprise that Van Gaal would let an academy graduate such as Welbeck go.

"Yes [I'm surprised]," he said. "I think for both parties it is a good move. I hate to see him leave Manchester United.

"For him it would be a fantastic move but I think he is the sort of player who can really strengthen Arsenal.

"I have known Danny since the age of eight or nine. I saw him come through. He is not an out and out goalscorer. He is a link player, he is a creator, he is unpredictable.

"He is still young. I think if he is in the right team, with games, he can score more goals. It is a shame that players that come through the ranks have to leave the club."

Even David Beckham said he was upset by Welbeck's departure. "He has been there since he was eight, his heart was in Manchester," Beckham said. "I am sure he is obviously sad to leave United. Arsenal have a very good, young, talented English player but to see him leave, as a Manchester United fan, is obviously sad.

"United have always bought players in but we have also had a great scouting system which Sir Alex Ferguson put in quite a few years ago where we did create young talent - and home grown talent - and that is something we have done over the years.

"Louis van Gaal is a talented manager, he is well respected and with United this is a project which will hopefully last for a few years and be a successful one. Hopefully we have still got young players coming through."

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