Bruce admits defeat on permanent deal for Welbeck - but hopes to re-sign striker on loan
STEVE Bruce has conceded he is unlikely to be able to sign Danny Welbeck on a permanent basis this summer, but the Sunderland boss is hoping to arrange another season-long loan deal for the striker. Welbeck, who will return to the Black Cats squad at Arsenal this afternoon after a two-month lay off because of a knee injury, is due to return to his parent club, Manchester United, at the end of the season. Bruce would love to sign him permanently, but accepts that United boss Sir Alex Ferguson is extremely unlikely to sanction his permanent departure from Old Trafford. The pair are yet to have a formal discussion over Welbeck's future, but a series of informal chats have confirmed that Ferguson still sees the England Under-21 international as part of his long-term plans. That represents a considerable blow to Bruce, but having turned the 20-year-old into a Premier League regular during his six months on Wearside, the Sunderland boss has not given up hope of seeing Welbeck again. If, as expected, the striker is struggling to force his way into Manchester United's 25-man squad ahead of the start of next season, Bruce is hoping to persuade Ferguson to agree to another long-term loan deal at the Stadium of Light. "We'll be having the discussion (about a permanent deal) and we'll be doing all we can to tie something up," said the Black Cats boss. "Maybe I'll have to see if I can get him (Ferguson) drunk on a bottle of wine, but I'll keep at him. "Maybe if we can get him for another year though, that will be the compromise. We'll have to see, but he's obviously a player we'd love to keep if it was at all possible." Despite starting the season slowly, Welbeck had evolved into Sunderland's most effective attacker by the time he suffered a knee injury at Aston Villa in early January. Regularly starting alongside Darren Bent in preference to Asamoah Gyan, the Manchester-born youngster had scored six goals in eight games prior to his premature departure at Villa Park. If anything, his importance has only increased in the subsequent two months, with Bent's departure, allied to the continued unavailability of Fraizer Campbell, highlighting a lack of attacking options in the Sunderland squad. Welbeck is likely to be on the substitutes' bench at the Emirates Stadium this afternoon, but should be pushing for a place in the starting line-up by the time Liverpool visit Wearside in a fortnight's time. "Danny's been training with the first team this week," said Bruce. "Fraizer is also easing his way back in, but Danny's more advanced and he could be involved at Arsenal if he's come through the last couple of days okay. "We've got a reserves game against West Ham on Tuesday, and I'd expect him to play in that to help build his match fitness up some more. "He's been out eight weeks now and we've definitely missed him. He went back to Manchester United for a bit so they could oversee his recuperation, but that's standard practice for a loan. It's funny how they've sent him back for the Arsenal game mind isn't it "The timing of the injury was particularly cruel because he was just starting to play at his peak when it happened. He was our top scorer before he was injured so we're obviously looking forward to having him back." In an ideal world, Bruce would be making wholesale changes this afternoon in light of last weekend's below-par display at Everton. Sunderland were comfortably outplayed as they slipped to a 2-0 defeat at Goodison Park, and a subsequent perusal of the ProZone stats has revealed that a number of the club's players were not reproducing the energy levels they had displayed earlier in the season. Perhaps that is understandable given the heavy workload shouldered by the majority of the fit members of the squad, with the Black Cats' injury list still containing nine senior names. Bruce admits Sunderland's current blip is being exacerbated by a lack of competition, but feels the emergence of youngsters such as Ryan Noble, who made his senior debut last weekend, can only benefit the club in the long run. "There's been a bit of a worrying trend developing physically," he said. "And usually when you see something like that, you do something about it. I haven't got that option in my locker though. "You can sometimes find something in adversity, and Ryan came on for the final 15 minutes last week and did fantastically. But the biggest weapon available to a manager is competition and I haven't got any. Even if we detect they're running on empty, we can't really do anything about it."
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