SUNDERLAND have intensified their search for strikers after having hopes of getting Danny Welbeck back on loan for another season dashed.
The Black Cats went into the close season keeping fingers crossed they would be given permission to take the England Under 21 striker on loan for a second season – hopes which increased when Michael Owen was handed a new Old Trafford contract.
But those hopes were quashed this week as Sunderland learned during talks with United over the potential signings of Darron Gibson, John O’Shea and Wes Brown, that Welbeck is currently very much part of Sir Alex Ferguson’s plans for next season.
United will not consider loan options at this moment in time.
Sunderland also asked the question of former loan star Jonny Evans’ availability, only to be given a straight “no deal” answer from Old Trafford.
The Welbeck decision means Sunderland have lost out on one avenue of team strengthening at the Stadium of Light this summer.
But the club has immediately moved on to a host of other possibilities.
It is currently in talks with promising young Korean striker Ji Dong-Won and is looking at forwards, including Liverpool’s David Ngog, Peter Crouch of Spurs and Ipswich’s Connor Wickham.
There are other irons in the fire too, but Sunderland have not completely abandoned hope that Welbeck’s situation at Old Trafford could change over the course of the summer.
A busy close season is expected at Old Trafford as the club watches rivals Liverpool’s early progress in the market at a time when Sir Alex Ferguson is looking to overhaul his squad in the wake of the Champions League defeat to Barcelona.
And with the potential sale of the Premier League’s leading scorer Dimitar Berbatov rumoured to be in the pipeline, Sunderland will still hope a complete summer revamp at United might yet see Welbeck become available by the time the transfer window closes.
Certainly the player himself would be happy to come back to the Stadium of Light for a second season if he finds his path barred at Old Trafford.
He admits his time at Sunderland was the “best of his career” and he made firm friendships during his time on Wearside.
He told the Echo: “I really enjoyed my season there.
“My main aim was to come to Sunderland and get games and minutes under my belt week-in, week-out.
“I succeeded with that and I was really happy with the way the season went. That two month-spell after the Chelsea game was the best of my career. I was getting a few goals and my performance level was up there.
“Sunderland have got a good core of young players and everyone’s hungry and wants to improve.
“Everyone’s pushing forward together and I was delighted they finished in the top 10 and above Newcastle.”