When last summer Manchester United started looking for their signings, some of the names that popped up in the media were expected, most notably including Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Harry Maguire. Those were the two players that were the most linked with a possible arrival to Old Trafford, but Daniel James was a bit of a surprise. The young Welsh winger was part of an interesting Swansea City team in the Championship in the season before and it was a truly odd situation that he ended up at Man United in the summer of 2019.
There are several reasons for that. At 21 years of age, James had only played one season in professional football. It was that season at Swansea, the 2018-19 campaign, when he blossomed in the Championship, most notably due to his incredible pace that was able to get the most out of the space opponents would leave for him. Things are even weirder when we know James was just a signature away from joining Leeds United on deadline day in the January transfer window of 2019.
James even traveled to Leeds, but opted out of joining Marcelo Bielsa’s team when no one expected that and then he returned to Swansea. After that, Man United came knocking and it was obvious he would join them. From this perspective and from a long-term view, it would have been really intruiging to see how James would have developed in that Bielsa team in the last 18 months. Still, we will never know that.
Daniel James scored three goals and assisted another six in 33 Premier League appearances. If that does not sound ideal, it is even worse when we know all three of his goals came in his first four matches for Man United. The next 29 did not yield a single goal. But was James ever expected to shine in his debut season at Old Trafford?
The easiest and most simplest answer would be – no, he was not. Let’s elaborate on that.
All we have previously mentioned about his inexperience and limited qualities he had shown at Swansea have suggested he was never going to be an ideal option nor that he would improve Man United overall. His most notable asset is the incredible pace, but apart from that, there is nothing that sets him apart and we know how important that is in the Premier League.
James’ performances had shown he will need time to develop. He is still only 22 with just two campaigns in professional football under his belt. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will have to find ways how to help him develop, but we should not forget the fact this past year was not easy on James. Just before he signed for Man United, he unexpectedly lost his father and so many things have changed for the young lad.
Next season, we will be hoping to see more of important performances from James, to be able to influence matches the way he did when he just arrived. Maybe that will mean many more substitute appearances, but hopefully Solskjaer will find an ideal role for him to help this team.