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Manchester UnitedManchester United
Leeds UnitedLeeds United
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By ESPN Staff

Manchester United losing identity after Danny Welbeck sale, says Mike Phelan

Former Manchester United assistant manager Mike Phelan believes the club's identity has been "broken" following the sale of striker Danny Welbeck to Arsenal.

Meulensteen: Welbeck will thrive at Arsenal
- Patterson: Attacking signings papers over United's cracks

Welbeck, a United fan from Manchester, was a product of the club's academy and the latest in a long line of footballers to come through their youth system and play in the first team.

United have produced two great generations of youngsters -- the "Busby Babes" in the 1950s and "Fergie's Fledglings" in the 1990s -- and are on an unbroken run of 3,704 games, dating back to 1937, when a youth-team product has been involved in their matchday squad.

However, that record could be under threat after the club allowed Welbeck to join Arsenal in an estimated 16 million pound deal while Tom Cleverley is reportedly awaiting official confirmation from the Premier League to complete a loan move to Aston Villa.

Danny Welbeck and Tom Cleverley lifting the COmmunity Shielf in August 2013
Phelan fears that United are losing their identity following the departures of Welbeck and Cleverley.

Three further homegrown players also departed Old Trafford, with Michael Keane being loaned to Burnley, Tom Lawrence signing a permanent deal with Leicester, and Nick Powell also joining Nigel Pearson's side on loan.

Keane, who joins fellow England under-21 international and Chelsea midfielder Nathaniel Chalobah on loan at Turf Moor until January, made his Premier League debut as a substitute in United's 1-1 draw at Sunderland but struggled in the 4-0 Capital One Cup defeat to MK Dons.

Lawrence made his solitary first-team appearance for United in May's 3-1 victory against Hull -- when he was surprisingly given a start by interim manager Ryan Giggs -- while Powell, who cost four million pounds when he joined from Crewe in 2012, scored on his Premier League debut against Wigan and spent last season on loan at the Latics.

Phelan, who spent five years at Old Trafford as a player and a further 14 as a coach, told the BBC: "Danny Welbeck has been part of United's identity and that has been broken.

"What will happen in the future now, nobody knows but that thread has been broken now."

United have invested heavily this summer to bring in six signings in Luke Shaw, Ander Herrera, Marcos Rojo, Angel Di Maria and deadline-day acquisitions Daley Blind and Radamel Falcao.

And Phelan, who was Sir Alex Ferguson's final assistant, wonders if the philosophy of the club is changing.

He added: "There is always the start of something and maybe this is the start of a new way of doing things at Manchester United and maybe that is the way football is going.

"Is it better to look at the instant rather than the future? It is a difficult one because youth is always the future, we all have to start somewhere and you just hope that product of youth can develop in the Premier League."

Three products of United's youth system -- Darren Fletcher, Tyler Blackett and Jonny Evans -- started their last game, Saturday's 0-0 draw against Burnley, but the arrival of new signings puts their spots in the side in doubt.

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