TITUS BRAMBLE believes ex-team mate Danny Welbeck deserves credit for establishing himself at Manchester United, as the former Sunderland loanee prepares to return to the Stadium of Light this weekend.
Injury restricted Welbeck to a watching-brief in the stands for United’s dramatic final day victory on Wearside last season, but on Saturday he is in line to feature at his former stomping ground for the first time since his season-long loan spell with the Black Cats.
Welbeck came of age during the 2010-11 campaign with Sunderland, netting six times in 21 top flight starts and making his England bow in the process.
But the 22-year-old has continued to make an impact since returning to Old Trafford, restricting international strike partner Wayne Rooney to the bench for United’s Champions League second leg against Real Madrid three weeks ago.
Sunderland defender Bramble (left), one of just seven players left at the Stadium of Light to have played alongside Welbeck during his loan, never doubted the frontman’s ability, but has still been impressed at how he has held his own with the league leaders.
Bramble told the Echo: “It was plain for to see for all the players here that he had so much ability. He was young, enthusiastic and that season with us did the world of good for him.
“He went back to Man United and now he’s a regular for England and playing very well.
“Even in the early days of his time here, we could see how much ability he had, but after that Chelsea game (the 3-0 win at Stamford Bridge) his confidence became sky high and he just got better and better.
“We knew he could hold his own for Man United, but with the money they’ve got, they can buy whoever they want to really.
“But it’s a credit to him that he’s played so much. He’s a great guy, works hard every day in training and wants to learn. It’s paying off now.
“He kept out Rooney for the Champions League game against Madrid to play alongside Robin van Persie and that said it all.”
Welbeck could start against Sunderland in Saturday lunchtime’s clash, with Sir Alex Ferguson expected to hold back his key figures for the FA Cup quarter final replay against Chelsea 48 hours later.
Reports yesterday suggested Ferguson could even go as far as fielding two entirely different XI’s for the quick-fire double-header, with United boasting a seemingly unassailable 15-point lead at the top of the Premier League.
But Bramble, who could start on Saturday after Carlos Cuellar suffered an ankle injury against Norwich 10 days ago, is taking little notice of the potential changes - stressing the quality of the players United can still boast in reserve.
“People are might saying he’ll rest a few players, but then he leaves out (Michael) Carrick and brings in (Paul) Scholes!” added the centre-half.
“It’s crazy to think they’ve got 22 to 25 internationals in their squad.
“Whoever plays against us on Saturday will be a team full of quality.
“And then anyone he does throw in will want to show they’re good enough to hold down a starting place.”