What would have happened if Man United kept Danny Welbeck

We’ve hopped into Paddy Power’s time machine to see what would have happened had Manchester United never sold Danny Welbeck to rivals Arsenal…


Towards the end of his first season as Manchester United, José Mourinho made the bold statement that the club “sold players that I would never sell and bought players that I would never buy”.

One of those he name-checked when detailing those he’d have preferred to keep at Old Trafford was Danny Welbeck, and it’s easy to see why the Manchester-born forward would have been seen by Mourinho as an asset.

While the overarching statement might have carried an air of hyperbole, and while it’s hard to see a place for the similarly name-checked Javier Hernández in any version of Mourinho’s United, Welbeck offered the kind of defend-from-the-front approach that the Portuguese manager has long favoured.

Instead, though, the England international managed just three games under Louis van Gaal – and just one start, in a 4-0 humbling against MK Dons – before being allowed to move to North London.

But, how might things have panned out if Van Gaal had kept him on board?

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Without Danny Welbeck there to score the winner against them in the quarter-finals, Manchester United go on to win the FA Cup with Danny Welbeck on target in the final against Aston Villa, having wrapped up Champions League qualification weeks earlier.

Having failed to complete the deadline day signing, Arsenal struggle in the first half of the season as new signing Radamel Falcao suffers an injury-hit few months, and they’re unable to recover in time to carry themselves into the top four.

Arsène Wenger leaves by mutual consent at the end of the season, with recently-departed Borussia Dortmund boss Jürgen Klopp taking his place.


Klopp’s Arsenal start the season strongly, with summer signing Roberto Firmino hitting the ground running after his arrival from Hoffenheim. However, their title challenge fades away after substitute Joel Campbell comes centimetres away from netting a winner against Leicester City, planting a stoppage-time header against the foot of the post.

The Gunners finish third, but are behind Tottenham for a second season running.

United, meanwhile, make the semi-finals of the Champions League, before losing to eventual champions Manchester City. It’s their best run in the competition since 2011, and it’s enough to buy Louis van Gaal more time at the helm.


Van Gaal is gone by the turn of the year, with United dropping out of the Europa League after an abysmal group stage. With original target José Mourinho having returned to Real Madrid following their Champions League elimination at the hands of United the previous season, the Manchester club opts to appoint the out-of-work Wenger.

United end the season sixth, but January signings Mohamed Elneny and Mohamed Salah give the club hope for the following campaign.

Arsenal sneak into the top four as the pressure builds on Klopp. The Gunners drop out of the Champions League, but make a run to the Europa League final, losing 3-2 to Ajax in one of the best games the competition has ever produced.


With Salah scoring 30 goals and Welbeck adding 25 of his own, United pip City to the Premier League title on goal difference, needing a final-day victory over Hull City to seal the deal. The Tigers, who stayed up by a single point back in 2015, are finally relegated in the process.

Arsenal’s Klopp experiment comes to an end in April. New signing Ousmane Dembélé fails to gel with Firmino in attack, and the London club face elimination from Europe after a mistake from Wojciech Szczęsny in his 300th game for the club.

Caretaker boss Per Mertesacker helps them claw their way to fourth once again.


Arsenal appoint José Mourinho, who has already alienated everyone in Madrid for the second time.

He signs Welbeck for £45m, but the striker picks up an injury on the opening day of the season, returning in time to play against his former club in the quarter-finals of the Champions League. The back-and-forth continues.

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