United's Likely Lads

Danny Welbeck and Kiko Macheda had their 'Solskjaer moments' last season when one kick changed their lives.

It effectively happened to United legend Ole Gunnar twice.

On August 25, 1996 the 1m import from Molde struck his debut goal against Blackburn Rovers at Old Trafford after coming on as a sub.

He rocketed from the unknown Norwegian to the baby-faced assassin who took the Premier League by storm.

On May 26, 1999 his instinctive diversion in the Nou Camp that dramatically won the Reds the Champions League final saw him given an instant entry pass into Old Trafford folklore.

Last term in his debut campaign as United's reserve team coach Solskjaer witnessed two of his strike prodigies hit the big time.

Welbeck thrashed in a steaming long-range shot in front of the Stretford End against Stoke in November after coming on as a sub.

And in April, with the title race delicately poised and the Reds drawing 2-2 against Aston Villa at home, hitman Macheda appeared as a sub and struck a sensational winner again in front of the Stretford End.

Now the teenage Mancunian and Roman have officially been promoted to Sir Alex Ferguson's senior attacking force for the new season and Solskjaer believes the two teen prodigies are ripe for their step up.

"They are ready for it," Ole told M.E.N. Sport. "But it is a very fine line between thinking you are too good to work hard and being ready for it.

"When you reach the top that might be the easy part. For instance, it was hard for the team to win back the Premier League title in 2007 but having won it three times in a row it becomes even harder.

"The likes of Welbeck and Macheda will realise that. Everybody knows about them now. Expectations of them are higher and they have to have higher expectations of themselves as well.

"It is a major step up for them. It is not just about going into the league, you are going to the best team in the country and the best team in Europe almost.

"The next step for many reserve players is maybe playing for a mid-table Premier League team but these boys are at the best club. The expectations are that they perform every time they play.

"But they know they can do it. How much they want it is also key to progress and succeeding. I know them and I know they want it badly. So I am not worried about them.

"Kiko when he scored against Villa he turned, he scored and that one kick of the ball changes his whole life. Everybody knows about him now. Welbeck scores against Stoke with that fantastic strike and everyone knows about him.

"It is about raised expectation. It is not about opponents knowing about you now and working you out. I don't think that matters or comes into it.

"Everybody knows everything about opposition players when they play against them these days no matter whether they are young or old.

"It is not as if John Terry is going to sit and watch videos of Macheda. The Villa defenders wouldn't have been saying he's just a young lad we don't have to be on our guard. It doesn't work that way.

"He's a good footballer and they'd be prepared for him. They train with great footballers every day. Defenders are playing every week against Cristiano Ronaldo, Michael Owen or Fernando Torres. They have to be ready.

"Opponents can study you all they like if they want but if you make the right decision they cannot stop you most of the time. When Kiko chose to turn onto his right foot against Villa instead of making the pass or switching to his left he made the right decision. By watching him opponents wouldn't have know exactly what he was going to do.

"We coach them into making the right decisions. Also, where you gain an advantage is unpredictability. Footballers nowadays are not predictable. If you become predictable, you are struggling. Unpredictably is a big thing. Danny and Kiko are not predictable.

"They are also in great physical shape. They can both be target men. They are both finishers. Technically, they are very gifted.

"Both could work on their heading side of their game. The size of them they can bully defenders almost. But all that will come with experience.

"They have both got great talent. When they have played together for the reserves, it has been a great pleasure being their coach.

"They can handle it all. They are tough mentally. You have to be as a striker at this club. You have to believe that if you get a chance you will score."

Solskjaer, though, won't be snipping the apron strings completely this season.

"They will still play a few games for me this season," he added. "It is about keeping their momentum going."

Date Published: 16 July 2009