After having some nice talks about the Euros and also the transfer targets mentioned in the media, it is time to get back to our Manchester United season ending reviews and it is Daniel James’ turn to talk about. The Wales international was one of the players last season who had a smaller role, but who still was somewhat important, mostly because of the fact he can play as a right winger. Although that is not his ideal position, it is where Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has often put him, in order to facilitate other players in attack – most notably, so that Marcus Rashford should not have to switch flanks and play where he is a drastically different, less dangerous player.
So, here is how Daniel James fared during 2020-21 season.
Daniel James has featured for Manchester United in 26 games this past season, across five different competitions. However, that sounds much better than it actually was. James had played just 1521 minutes across those 26 appearances, meaning he averaged less than 60 minutes per appearance. But that part was unsurprising. He made just eight full 90-minute games and a couple more where he was substituted just before the end of the game, showing nicely what kind of role he had. During his time on the pitch, James scored five goals, three of which came in his 15 Premier League appearances, and also had two assits – one in the league and the other one against Real Sociedad in Europa League.
Looking at some more underlying type of numbers, we get a good indication of James’ value to this team. He joined from Swansea after having just one professional football season under his belt at the age of 21 and he has since been the type of player that simply cannot be much more than a bit-part role kind of winger. His non-penalty goals per 90 of 0.24 are decent for his position but no more, while his chance creation and shot creating actions are abysmal. Having 1.69 shot creating actions per 90 means 96 per cent Premier League wingers have done better than him in this category.
While James is unable to do much with the ball in terms of creating chances our completing dribbles (very low 1.09 completed dribbles per 90, he is in the 18th percentile), he is good in his defensive work. A total of 20.49 pressures per 90 minutes makes him one of the most active pressure-making wingers and he does his fair shair of tackling, intercepting and blocking higher up the pitch. But that is not good enough for what Man United need from him…
Daniel James had had an okay season at best, playing the role he has been given in trying to offer danger to United’s attacking transitions. However, his limitations show that he is not of good enough calibre for United’s right winger and he was more of a gap-filler before Jadon Sancho arrives from Borussia Dortmund. His role next season could diminish further and it would not be a big surprise.