Daniel James' Manchester United Honeymoon period is over
Background Image Via: Wikimedia Commons/Daniel. CC BY 2.0.
When Manchester United signed little-known Daniel James over the summer, many expected he'd be a squad player or rotational option at best. After all, he'd only scratched the surface at Swansea City before the Red Devils came calling for his signature in a £15million deal.
The Wales international would impress greatly on pre-season tour as his hardworking reputation began to take come to the fore. His fairytale start to life at Old Trafford would only continue with a debut goal against Chelsea, followed by an emotional celebration to-boot. James would back that up with an absolute peach of a strike against Southampton and another beauty when taking on Crystal Palace. His scintillating first-month thrust the 22-year-old into the limelight. Since then, the goals have dried up, while the assists are also becoming more infrequent. Why?
Hot-starts, particularly amongst attackers, are common. After all, who doesn't want to impress their new boss in the early-going? We've all done it when starting at a new employer, you give that extra 10 or 20 percent, it's just natural. James was the perfect tonic for an Ole Gunnar Solskajer-led United team who were starting to take shape. He was rightly hailed as the signing of the season at the time. Now he's probably looking like the third-best acquisition of the trio that were acquired by the Baby Faced Assassin.
I do sympathise greatly with James. The situation for him has been pressure-filled from the get-go; some of which is his own doing. After all, when you make an insanely hot-start like he did, that expectation is there going forward. He's become a victim of his own success. At the season's start if you told me he'd score three goals and tack on six assists for his teammates I'd have bitten your hand off. I guess it's all relative.
Every man and their dog knows that Solskjaer's squad is threadbare, despite the additions of Odion Ighalo and Bruno Fernandes. When you sprinkle injuries into the mix, James hasn't had the chance to rest up and recharge the batteries. The Welshman has played 33 games across all competitions, totaling 2,500 minutes. For a man who was supposed to be afforded the luxury of time, those are some lofty demands. For United it's needs must, for James, it is clearly taking its toll on his body.
Familiarisation. Opponents are now used to James' style and best attributes. Defenders now sit deeper to counteract the 22-year-old's lightning pace and that element of surprise has now gone. He has since been called a one-trick pony which is somewhat true. It's down to the player to develop other aspects of his game, which will take time.
Versatility. Again, James' strengths have come back to haunt him. The former Swansea City man can play on either flank in a 4-3-3 formation, or directly through the middle in a 5-3-2. Injuries to Marcus Rashford, Jesse Lingard and Anthony Martial this term coupled with Mason Greenwood's inexperience of youth and Juan Mata's struggles, James has been deployed all over the field. That consistency of nailing down one position isn't something James has had the opportunity to do. He's been used as a jack of all trades which isn't ideal for someone who is still adapting.
We're talking about a youngster who, right now, should be utilised as a major attacking threat from off the substitutes bench. The situation has meant that James has been called upon more often than anyone would've liked. In the long-term, that may benefit James. He's been thrown into the fire and come out the other side alive and kicking and although he's going through struggles right now, I'm backing Daniel James to prove all his doubters wrong in the long-term.