Daniel James has a lot to offer as a rotation option for Manchester United

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Even though he almost signed for them in January 2019, ‘almost’ means he had literally posed with the jersey: it was Daniel James who appeared to add a compiler of misery against Leeds during Manchester United’s 6-2 beating of Marcelo Bielsa’s side.

James added United’s fifth and while goalkeeper Illan Meslier should have arguably done better to keep up his effort, the Welshman won’t mind considering it was his first Premier League goal since August 2019.

It’s exactly that statistic that has dogged James and reduced him to nothing more than humor for opposition fans and the scapegoat for some United fans when the going gets tough. Of course, there is little in the way of excusing a player who managed to play so much but offered so little last season, but it’s shortsighted to blame James for his drop in form.

His goal against Leeds was desperately needed and impressed overall in his fourth league start to the season, which is key to rebuilding his stock and reminding fans that he is actually the ideal player to have on a team that it is so geared towards exciting fast break soccer.

James enjoyed an electric start to life in Manchester following his £ 15 million move from Swansea. Bagging on his home debut against Chelsea wasn’t enough, so he followed up with goals against Crystal Palace and Southampton. He was quickly advertised as a fast winger with a keen eye for goal and looked like a bargain, but the goals dried up after a brilliant start.

Ole Gunner Solskjaer persisted and continued to play the 23-year-old, for lack of a better option, honestly, resulting in him being overdone and misused in his first season, greatly hurting his reputation early on. . He racked up 46 appearances across all competitions and was continuously swapped aimlessly between the left and right flanks, which was a testament to United’s lack of quality in depth, and was further overshadowed by the appearance of Mason Greenwood as the campaign progressed.

Mason Greenwood, Daniel James
James lacked true cutting edge in his debut season with United | Pool / Getty Images

He finished the season with four goals and seven assists in total, which isn’t such a bad number, but he could have been a lot better with a healthy rotation and more consistency in his performances. However, not scoring a goal in the league for the remainder of the season hurt, and not only seemingly killed his confidence, it also resulted in a massive backlash from critics.

People will say that there is no time for mediocrity in a club as big as United and it is fair. James is still largely inconsistent and has yet to show genuine improvement since he signed. While he possesses a lightning-fast pace and a one-shot bullet from range, he’s not a constant threat and lacks versatility, the ability to beat a man, and a consistent passing that allows him to find teammates in dangerous areas. .

Their lack of improvement in these areas is somewhat concerning, but there is plenty of time for those who gain experience. What made these limitations worse is the fact that it was used so badly last season; James was never the man to come in and fill the void that a certain Jadon Sancho could have filled had he signed, but the man to provide strength in numbers and a solid rotational arm.

And while United failed in their search for Sancho again in 2020, the hiring of Edinson Cavani has alleviated deep problems. It means they can deploy Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford, and Greenwood on the wings. Therefore, there are fewer expectations of James, which means that he can rebuild his reputation as an impact player off the bench and in other competitions, with his explosive playing style.

Daniel James, Ezgjan Alioski
James looked much sharper against Leeds | Clive Brunskill / Getty Images

Being able to use the Welshman from the bench is undoubtedly the way to take advantage of his strengths. His pace is deadly and exactly what United need when playing on the fast break to outrun the defense, while his shot could come in handy in the absence of a better option at the break. It’s that explosiveness in short spells of a game where James can prove key for the Red Devils under Solskjaer, and something the head coach must draw on during the second half of the season as match congestion passes. bill.

Daniel James never signed on to be the next big star in world soccer. However, that’s not to say that he can’t play a role in any potential United success; Using him correctly as a squad player and getting the most out of his attributes on an attacking side could be the key to truly unleashing James, and will go a long way toward propelling his action once again.

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