Van Gaal given food for thought by red-hot Welbeck

Welbeck has hit the ground after Van Gaal off-loaded him for £16 million.

FILE: Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal. Picture: Official Manchester United Facebook Page

LONDON - Manchester United manager Louis Van Gaal may have watched on somewhat uncomfortably as Danny Welbeck grabbed a superb Champions League hat-trick for Arsenal on Wednesday.

Deemed surplus to requirements at Old Trafford after the arrival of Colombian Radamel Falcao on loan from Monaco, Welbeck has hit the ground running in north London after Van Gaal off-loaded him for 16 million pounds.

Falcao, Robin Van Persie and Wayne Rooney have made little impact in United's worst start to a Premier League season since its inception in 1992.

Record signing Angel Di Maria has made a bright start in a United shirt his flashes of individual brilliance can paper over the defensive cracks and a blunt-looking attack.

United have scored 11 goals in six games and Van Persie netted two in the last two, a 5-3 defeat at Leicester City followed by a scrappy 2-1 home win over West Ham.

However, Van Gaal's Dutch compatriot and Falcao, yet to score for United and still rusty after a serious knee injury had forced him to miss the World Cup, both looked short of pace and fitness.

With a porous and injury-hit defence looking uncomfortable every time their rivals come forward, Welbeck's electrifying speed and selfless tackling back have been missed.

Former United right back Gary Neville, now a television pundit, believes Arsenal will benefit from signing the England striker.

"If (Arsenal manager) Arsene Wenger can work with Danny Welbeck in the same way as he did with Thierry Henry he will get an absolute bagful of goals if he is consistently playing," Neville told Sky Sports after the 23-year old striker's impressive performance.

"The biggest thing is that his centre-forward play outside the box is sensational, his work rate and his touch, but it's about his consistency of finishing. I think that will come from confidence and belief."

Often deployed out wide at United, Welbeck's poor tally of 29 goals in 142 appearances in all competitions belied his outstanding work rate including defensive duties untypical for thoroughbred attackers.

Tinkering with his formation from three defenders to an orthodox 4-4-2, Van Gaal has failed to find the right mix.

Lack of mortar between the expensively assembled bricks was particularly obvious as Leicester trampled United when they overturned a 3-1 second half deficit.

Falcao and Van Persie were running on empty in a torrid finish to the game and West Ham came perilously close to an equaliser at Old Trafford when Welbeck's attributes would also have been useful.

"Outside the box he is unplayable at times, he is a nightmare," said Neville. "If he can get goals more consistently you've got a real top-class centre-forward there."