No-one likes to see a once great player suffering through the decline of his own body. John Nicholson believes some difficult decisions lie ahead for Steven Gerrard...
Alan Pardew looks unhappy, the supporters are certainly unhappy and the players don't exactly look enthused either. It's better for everybody if the misery ends now...
You just like some footballers, don't you? You can't help it. It's an existential thing. It doesn't matter how well or badly they play, you still like them.
I'm like that with Danny Welbeck and I suspect I'm not alone in this. There's something lovably gauche about him as he keenly gallops around like a new-born foal, not quite yet in control of all of its limbs. The retro Fresh Prince of Bel Air flat top only adds to his charm and I always want him to do well.
His Manchester United statistics aren't especially impressive, especially the goal-scoring bit, which one would assume is supposed to be his main gig. He's done okay this season in a poor side, but, feeling marginalized, is now supposedly pushing for a move, desperate to play up top rather than on the left.
When I hear this I can't help but feel that Danny should be bloody grateful he's playing at all, because a non-scoring striker doesn't usually get to stay on United's books for six years. He may well be that rare beast, the international footballer who plays better for country than for club but, even so, his presence at United for so long suggests there has been much goodwill shown to him for quite a long time. They've waited for him to become consistently good, but he hasn't.
In 2012/13 Welbeck scored just twice in 40 games, and even this season's ten in 36 is hardly the stuff of legend. For all his other qualities in terms of hold-up play, it would seem a fairer assessment to think that, rather than Danny looking for a move, United might be looking to get rid.
At 23, you're pretty much a fully-formed footballer. Some small tweaks to your game may help but it's highly unlikely that you're going to make an exponential leap in quality. So that whole leggy, slightly out-of-control gallumphing that Danny does, that's probably not going to improve now. If he could control the ball better and not fall over, seemingly at random, often at inopportune moments, he'd have done it by now.
Even if played up front as he wishes, I don't think anyone, not even Danny himself, would be overly confident that he'd become a killer 25 goals a season striker, and that seems quite important. The problem is, as Welbeck runs towards the goal, jellylegs in full effect, part of you think that he looks the part. He's really dined off that common belief for a long time now.
Welbeck has scored some fine, fine goals for club and country, but he's had a place at the top table for longer than most on those flashes of sharp genius. Not many get another season after scoring two in 40 no matter who they play for and it seems likely that United will not want to rely on him to fire their way back to the big time. They will sign an international striker of massive renown and ability if at all possible, leaving him as fourth choice, albeit with the best hair by some margin.
So the flat top will be heading on down the road, perhaps moving to his aunt and uncle's in Bel Air. In recent reported interviews he sounds a little bitter at his treatment by Moyes and, by extension, United, but really, he's been luckier than most.
Welbeck will take his horse-falling-out-of-a-helicopter qualities to another club and I'm sure we'll all go on enjoying his occasional moments of high skill. We will go on feeling that Welbz could be great, yet with the suspicion that he never will be. And yet that fact will not diminish him in our affections one iota.
Johnny now writes superb northern crime novels. We love them. Check them out here: www.johnnicholsonwriter.com