DANNY Welbeck will volunteer to play for Sunderland’s second string tomorrow despite an instant return to the first team picture.
The on-loan Manchester United striker played an influential role in halting Sunderland’s run of four successive defeats at Arsenal on Saturday by keeping the Gunners on the back foot during his lively 20-minute cameo from the bench.
Welbeck. who had been undergoing treatment at Old Trafford, was a surprise inclusion after only returning to training on Wearside last Thursday following two months on the treatment table with hamstring and knee problems.
With Steve Bruce’s men not in action again until the visit of Liverpool on Sunday week, Welbeck hopes he can be involved in tomorrow’s behind-closed-doors reserve clash with West Ham to build up his sharpness.
Welbeck told the Echo: “I’ll ask to play in the reserve game tomorrow.
“I’d only trained twice but it was good to get on the bench at Arsenal and to get on the pitch was a bonus.
“I’ve just been doing running trying to build my fitness up at Man United. I’ll use the next two weeks as a positive to get my fitness back up.
“You’re not going to get your match fitness from training so to get on the pitch and get 20 minutes is massive for me.”
The point was Sunderland’s first since January and also boosted the title credentials of Welbeck’s parent club, who tasted back-to-back Premier League defeats with a 3-1 loss at local rivals Liverpool yesterday.
Arsenal would have moved to within a solitary point of Sir Alex Ferguson’s side had they tasted victory, with the gap at the top now standing at three.
He could have made it an even better result for Man United had Arsenal keeper Wojciech Szczesny not palmed behind his shot on the turn in the final 10 minutes.
But the 19-year-old claims Man United’s championship challenge didn’t enter the equation with Sunderland ending their losing streak thanks to a stella defensive display.
“It’s a massive point and like a springboard point for us,” he said. “We’re just looking forward to the next game now.
“Coming to the Emirates and getting a point, we couldn’t be happier.
“It’s obviously quite tight at the top between Arsenal and Man United.
“But it doesn’t come into my thinking, I’m just focusing on playing my football for Sunderland and trying to make myself a better player.
“I’m loving every minute at the moment.”
Welbeck added: “I thought the shot was in myself but it was a good save from Szczesny so it wasn’t to be.
“I was bound to be a bit rusty. But I was pleased with my first touch and got a shot in.
“Arsenal still created chances. Simon Mignolet made a great save from Samir Nasri’s free-kick, he had a blinder and the defence was good.
“We defended really well because Arsenal are always a threat.”