By Kevin Affleck
Nigel Pearson has confirmed the time is right for Danny Welbeck to be involved in the squad to face Everton on Saturday.
Welbeck has been out since October, missing the last 18 games with a hamstring injury but he has been carefully managed back to full fitness, slowly integrated back into training and the Head Coach feels now is the moment to let the England forward off the leash.
“Welbeck is in the squad,” said Pearson. “He is a really good player and a big character in the dressing room. He gives us another option and his track record is excellent. He has been training with the team for three weeks and has looked really good from his first day with us.”
The 29-year-old has banged in 16 goals for his country, 29 for Manchester United and 32 for Arsenal, so his pedigree at the very top level is there for all to see. His career of late has been hit hard by injury so Pearson has been fully part of the well-thought-out process to make sure he gets a good base level of fitness and does not run the risk of a further set-back by being rushed back ahead of time.
“He's had a great career and is the type of player who really wants to be in the fray,” he said. “I had a good chat with him today and I'm delighted for him that he's overcome the problem he had. He's had a few injury issues to deal with but he's worked exceptionally hard and it's great to have him available. We just have to make sure he's back and stays available. That's the most important thing. When you have got big players unavailable, especially in our situation where you would like as many players available as possible, the temptation is to rush players back when they are close, but it's in our interests that when they are back, they are back to stay.
“When recovering from injury that has lasted a considerable amount of time, it's important that players have that durability and robustness that training over a long period can give them. We've got enough games left to give ourselves a good chance of staying up... and we are not quite in the situation where we have to take undue risks.”
The return of Welbeck offsets the absence again of Ismaïla Sarr.
“Sarr won't be available this week,” said Pearson. “It's disappointing to lose Ismaïla. He is making good progress, but he won't be available for Saturday.”
Although Kiko Femenía is still missing, Pearson said “it is good to have players coming back”.
“Will [Hughes] will be back in the squad,” he said. “He has trained this week and looks good. It's great for us when he's playing as he's done exceptionally well for us. Tom Cleverley has trained today with the squad and he looks really good. He won't be included this weekend but he has made really good progress. It's great to have talented players back in the fold. We know what Tom is capable of and he's desperate to be back involved.”
The welcome return of some key players from injury has influenced the thinking when it comes to the extent of the transfer business this month.
“I'm pretty happy with the squad we have,” said Pearson. “If we can add players to make us more competitive then yeah, we may do it. If it doesn't happen, I'll be okay as I don't think this window is one where we need to panic. I don't want too many players around the place that are too far away from the team. There are areas that might be beneficial to strengthen but whether we can achieve that or not remains to be seen. I'm not in a hurry to lose anybody. If there is a scenario where there is business to be done, it will be to add to what we have.”