FIFA.com were invited to the Aon Training Complex at Carrington recently to speak to England forward Danny Welbeck about his education with Manchester United, his season so far and his thoughts on the upcoming FIFA World Cup™.
The 23-year-old, who represented his country at the FIFA U-17 World Cup in Korea Republic back in 2007, also revealed his biggest influence at United and what David Moyes has brought to the dressing room.
FIFA.com: You’ve had a great footballing education here at Carrington. In terms of the players you’ve played with since you’ve been here, who has been your biggest role model?
Danny Welbeck: It’d have to be Ryan Giggs. Ever since I was a young kid growing up watching Manchester United, there have been so many inspirational players at this club. I have always looked up to Ryan Giggs and I thankfully got the chance to be training with him every single day.
And then there have been players who have really looked after me as I was coming through like Wes Brown and Darren Fletcher who were always talking me through games and through training sessions. Rio Ferdinand, Paul Scholes, Wayne Rooney, Cristiano Ronaldo, Carlos Tevez, Dimitar Berbatov…there have been so many great players I’ve learned from.
What’s that first experience like when you’re on the pitch alongside a role model such as Ryan Giggs? It must be quite surreal.
Yes it is. Obviously growing up as a young kid in Manchester supporting Manchester United and then actually getting a chance to be on the pitch with him - and on the training pitch as well - that’s where you learn most of your football education. To see how hard he works, knowing how much he wants it, it’s that determination and motivation to keep going on. It’s that Manchester United spirit to never settle for where you are, to keep on improving and win as much as you can.
One of United’s strengths time after time has been winning league after league after league. Is it difficult to find that motivation to keep winning?
No, it’s not difficult at all. You see Ryan Giggs every single day at the training ground and you see his determination to win every single training game, never mind the first team competitive games! We see that drive and that desire to keep pushing on, which is a daily reminder of why we’re here. Being at a club like Manchester United, such a massive club, the pressure is there to win the games and to win trophies. That’s what we’re here to do.
You’re managed by David Moyes now. What do you see so far as his major strengths?
I think he knows what he wants his team to do. We go through the games in meetings. We know our jobs on the pitch but I think at the moment the games have been quite unpredictable and it’s something we need to sit down together as a group and get right. We need to make sure we’re winning as many games as possible because we’re Manchester United and that’s what we’re here to do.
It’s been an unpredictable season in the English Premier League. Do you think that will continue this season?
I think football is always an unpredictable game. This season lots of teams have been losing games that they might have been backed to win. It’s difficult because every single team in the Premier League now have the ability to beat each other so no matter who is on the bottom of the table playing whoever is on the top of the table it’s always going to be difficult. There are no easy games in this league.
You have been versatile during your time at United but which position do you think you’re at your most effective?
I like to be a striker getting in behind defences. That’s where I’d really like to be playing. Growing up at Manchester United we’ve had the right upbringing and I think more or less any forward who comes through at United from the academy ranks can play in any forward positions across the front. That’s a benefit for me, and it can be a hindrance because you’re getting moved about, you don’t get your games in the position you want to be playing in but I think you have got to look at it as a positive and take it in your stride. Further down the line you might get your chance in that preferred position.
You’ve already scored more goals this season then you did last season. Is that a conscious effort to be a little bit more selfish in that positive sense?
Definitely. I look back at last season when we won the league. It was one of the best seasons of my life. I was playing regularly and I felt my performance was much better than the previous season. I was playing as a left-winger. It’s not a position I really want to be playing in but I’m happy to be playing there for the team no matter what. It is difficult sometimes you say, “I’d love to come into the season and I really want to score more goals no matter where I’m playing.” I started off scoring more goals, but I picked up an injury and I’m just coming back into the swing of things now. I really want to score more goals this season.
Looking ahead to the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™, is this something you dream about? To play football at a World Cup at the spiritual home of football in Brazil?
Of course. Growing up watching World Cups, it’s something where the whole world sits down and watches the occasion. I remember being home as a little kid watching the World Cup matches, every single game.
Do any matches or tournaments spring to mind?
2002. I was 11 years of age, I had been at United for a couple of years as a young boy and I sat down to watch the games with my family, and I remember the Brazil-England game very well. Watching Brazil in that tournament was great to see. It’s something that you really want to push yourself to be involved in and hopefully that chance will come.
Is it something as a professional footballer you think about frequently? Or are you in the mindset of tackling one game at a time?
I’m not really thinking about the World Cup at the moment. My mind is set on club football and nothing else. It’s the next game and I’m not thinking too far ahead because anything can happen within a day and you never know what’s coming next.
Who do you think will win the FIFA Ballon d’Or?
I think it’ll be Cristiano Ronaldo. To produce what he’s produced every single game since he’s moved to Real Madrid I think he’s been unbelievable. Even when he was here at Manchester United, watching him in training, watching him play his games, he’s got to be the best in the world. It’s difficult to say because of Messi. Messi’s been unbelievable as well.