Daniel James has been a rare bright spot for Manchester United at the beginning of the 2019/20 campaign. The Welsh international was a surprise addition for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side over the summer, for a fee of £15 million. That is looking like a potential bargain based on his first few performances in red, as he has caused problems for opposition defenders and he looks to be mature enough for the Premier League.
The 21-year-old has had an incredible rise to the top. James wasn’t even guaranteed first-team minutes at Swansea City last season. Their relegation combined with Graham Potter’s preference for young talent gave him an opportunity and he grabbed it with both hands. His total of four goals and seven assists in the Championship may not have stood out, but those that watched him could see his raw potential. The attacker has natural pace and tenacity that makes him difficult to defend against. That has been evident during his first four matches for Manchester United.
During the first match of the season, James came off the bench to score a debut goal against Chelsea. It was a great moment for the youngster, but few predicted him to go on to become as influential as he became before the international break. The last two Manchester United goals have been scored by the former Swansea attacker.
His opener against Southampton was a sublime display of confidence and skill, as he cut inside and rifled a shot into the top corner. James attempted five shots, made two key passes and two tackles. This showed the threat that he poses, coupled with the work rate that has impressed Solskjaer so much. It is a characteristic that has been missing in some Manchester United players in recent years and the supporters have quickly taken to him.
Although James is looking to be a great signing for the club, it is a sad indictment of where they currently are that a 21-year-old signing from the Championship has been one of their most important players. It shows the lack of quality in the current Manchester United squad and the inconsistency showed by some of their key players. Against Southampton, it was James that the club were looking towards in attacking positions and that is huge pressure on a young player.
Manchester United were once a club that signed the very best players in Europe. It would have been near impossible for a player to come straight out of the second tier with one year of experience and break into the first team at Old Trafford. It has taken James a matter of weeks to do just that, which highlights the club’s fall in recent seasons. It underlines how far behind they are from Manchester City and Liverpool.
However, supporters need to take the positives from the Welshman’s arrival. Manchester United have been held back by the poor attitude and lack of desire shown by some of the key players in the squad. They need a complete rehaul and more players like James will be needed to make it happen.
Liverpool were in a similar situation and they are now one of the best teams in Europe. Andy Robertson wasn’t a household name until the Reds brought him to Anfield. A change in Manchester United’s recruitment was needed and this summer was a good start to achieving that.
It wasn’t expected that James would make an immediate impact. The fact that he has makes it clear that the current squad will never be able to get the club back to the top of the league. The talent may be there, but the desire isn’t.