I'm back from De Jong foul and fit for Euros, roars young Lion Welbeck
22:20 GMT, 5 June 2012
Danny Welbeck's anticipated rise to the top, as boldly predicted by Sir Alex Ferguson, was already behind schedule before Nigel de Jong got involved.
It was De Jong who chopped down Welbeck in the Manchester derby in April, prompting a touchline squabble between United boss Ferguson and his City rival Roberto Mancini.
The 21-year-old United striker was nearing the end of his breakthrough season at Old Trafford, Euro 2012 beckoned and suddenly heartbreak loomed. Fergie shared his disappointment.
Making his name: Danny Welbeck (right) scored the winner against Belgium
'I went home that night with all sorts of emotions going through my head,' recalled Welbeck. 'At that point, I felt really downhearted. I didn’t know what was happening.
'But it was definitely about keeping positive. It’s football and sometimes you’re fit and sometimes you’re not. You just have to take what’s in front of you and build on that.
'I knew that once I got back in the gym I could do stuff like work on the bikes and the different machines, just to get ready for when I could get back.
'There were times when I was thinking, “Oh, I won’t be able to make it”, but the manager kept faith in me. I’m just lucky it wasn’t as bad as I feared.'
Roy Hodgson may feel blessed, too, after witnessing his delicate and precise left-foot finish, the only goal in a friendly win against Belgium at Wembley on Saturday.
When it comes to injuries, very little has gone right for the England manager since he named his squad, but Welbeck’s rapid return after damaging ankle ligaments at the Etihad Stadium on April 30 was one boost he needed.
'To get a first goal for England was something I’ve dreamed of since I was a little kid,' added Welbeck. 'I’m just looking forward to getting more under my belt, and more caps.'
About time: Welbeck has long been tipped for the top by Sir Alex Ferguson
It was May 2009 when Ferguson tipped the leggy teenager for great things, not something the United boss does lightly such is his determination to shield elite talent from the burden of expectation.
But there has been excitement about Welbeck’s potential for years and Hodgson could be the first England manager to benefit.
'Danny’s a certainty to make it at the highest level,' said Fergie three years ago. 'I’ve told Fabio Capello the boy will be in his World Cup squad next year. Wide left or right or through the middle, he has the intelligence, guts, athleticism and talent to do the job.
'He’s going to be a big lad. His height is about 6ft 1in but the prediction is he’ll be 6ft 3in.
'He’s yet to get the conformation in his thighs, so he is still gangly, but he’s brave enough to carry that. When he completes his growing, he’ll really be something. Danny’s a terrific, down-to-earth boy and I’d like to have given him more chances by now but at this stage of the season all our results are vital.'
Welbeck was charmed. 'Once you hear stuff like that it does give you a bit of a lift but you can’t really look too much into it,' said the striker, with the benefit of hindsight.
Leading the line: Roy Hodgson could start Welbeck as his lone striker
Eight months later, however, he was on loan at Preston, where Ferguson’s son Darren was in charge, and although he scored twice in the Championship, he did not dazzle. He returned prematurely to Old Trafford with a knee injury which would require surgery. There would be no late charge to the World Cup with Capello.
'That season, I didn’t play as many games as I’d have wanted to at United,' he said. 'I’d be training for weeks and weeks, not getting a game, and then you’d get thrown in at the deep end once every five weeks, or something. It’s tough.'
In August 2010, he was sent on loan again, this time to Sunderland, where he started to develop under Steve Bruce, and in March 2011 came an England debut.
It just happened to be against Ghana, a country Welbeck was qualified to represent through his parents. When he appeared at Wembley, the Ghana fans jeered.
'I’ve been playing for England since I was 16,' said Welbeck. 'It has felt like a natural progression. I’ve done England Under 16s, 17s, 18s, 19s and 21s and it was natural for me to make that progression to the senior squad. I’m delighted I’ve done that.'
There was a quiet word, too, just congratulations on making the squad and a reminder to play his own game, from the United manager, a man who likes to be proved right.