The young Reds forward netted in the 88th minute of the UEFA Under-21 Championships match in Herning, Denmark, to level the scores at 1-1. Tottenham defender Kyle Walker made a powerful run to feed Welbeck for a cool turn and finish past Spain goalkeeper David de Gea, the Atletico Madrid star wanted by Sir Alex Ferguson.
United team-mates Tom Cleverley and Chris Smalling joined Welbeck in starting for Stuart Pearce's side. Fourteen minutes in, they were looking at a very difficult evening's work after conceding the opening goal to Real Zaragoza midfielder Ander Herrera.
Spain went on to dominate possession and outplay England at times with their crisp passing. De Gea was largely a spectator but he reacted well to prevent an equaliser just before half-time, when one of his defenders inadvertently diverted Walker's cross towards his own goal.
Welbeck's first entry into the referee's notebook was for a yellow card in the 35th minute, following a late touchline challenge on Barcelona forward Jeffren. The young United striker could have received a costly second caution, for bringing down Spain captain Javi Martinez in the second half, but Swedish match official Markus Strombergsson was merciful.
Both Smalling and Welbeck completed the 90 minutes, as did the England defender being touted for a move to United - Blackburn's Phil Jones. Cleverley, operating on the right of midfield, came off in the 81st minute to be replaced by Chelsea winger Scott Sinclair.
England's next game in Group B is on Wednesday night against Ukraine, who lost 2-1 to Czech Republic