What to expect from Manchester United new boy Daniel James?
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Albeit later than anticipated, Manchester United has got off the mark in this transfer window. The Red Devils have acquired Daniel James from Swansea City after the 21-year-old enjoyed an excellent breakthrough season in professional football.
Football fans are a demanding bunch, particularly at the highest level. Many would have expected the 20-time Premier League champions to go out and make a splash by bringing in a marquee, big-name signing. Instead, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has done the polar opposite. Sections of the Old Trafford faithful are left asking the question, 'who's he then?'.
Well thankfully for you, we're going to shed some light on James. First, he cost £15million, potentially rising to £18million should various add-ons and performance-based bonuses be met.
Predominantly a left-winger who likes to cut inside and use his favoured right-foot, James can actually play effectively all across the front line. The youngster has started matches directly in-behind the striker, over on the right and sometimes even drifting up top to play as the main forward. Having the ability to be that Swiss Army Knife certainly bodes well in the early goings of any footballer's career, although If I'm being picky I like players to specialise in, and choose one position before they reach their peak. I'd rather them be a master of something than a jack of all trades. Ashley Young is perhaps the finest example.
The first thing you'll notice when watching James play is his outrageous pace. In a footrace, this boy can leave anyone in his wake due to his unbelievable acceleration and sensational top speed. That's a trait you cannot teach. United's latest addition has it in abundance.
Imagine a game winding down, opposing defenders are getting tired and they see James gearing up to come off the substitutes bench. There's nothing more hurtful than sheer speed in the late-game situation.
Getting into the position is one thing but finishing off the chance is a completely different entity. James scored four goals in 33 league outings last season and found the net for his beloved Wales, too. It's an area in which he must improve on if United are going to hand him regular starts.
Thankfully for James, there could well be an immediate opening available to him. Anthony Martial and Alexis Sanchez will continue to battle it out on that left-hand side, but nobody has been able to nail down the right-wing slot or #10 position in the last few years. Juan Mata and Jesse Lingard have tried but neither has performed with the required consistency.
If James enjoys a good pre-season, his new manager has already shown a willingness to trust in youth, so therefore don't be surprised to see him do it again here. Personally, though, I feel the Welsh youngster will be used in bursts as he acclimatises to Premier League football. It'd be unfair to expect him to hit the ground running. United supporters will have to be patient. The Europa League will likely provide the perfect platform.
In time, the Red Devils could have a real gem on their hands. For now, we need to let James develop as a player without the weight of the world on his shoulders. He will get opportunities in his first year, but it's hit and miss as to whether he'll take those chances. One thing is for certain, though, this boy is exciting to watch...