Next on our list of potential England stars in the making is Manchester United and England U-20 international midfielder Matthew James.
James is a product of the famous Manchester United academy at Carrington. He joined the club at a tender age and has been progressing rapidly through the ranks at United. James made his first academy appearance as a fourteen year old back in 2005 when a young James played for the U-18 side. The next season saw James gradually work his way into regular contention, appearing eight times for academy manager Paul McGuinness’ U-18 side before establishing himself as a regular in 2007. The 2007-2008 season also saw James make his first appearance for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s reserve team where the talented youngster was to become an integral part of the team’s future success.
During his time in the reserves, James established himself as one of the premier midfield talents in the country in the 2008-2009 season where his combination of passing, vision, technique and long-range shooting helped to fire United to second place in the Premier Reserve League North.
One of James’ main strengths is his versatility, as he is able to play in defence as well as in his preferred position in midfield. James’ style of play has seen him being compared favourably to Paul Scholes due to his devastating long-shots and a keen eye for a pass. These attributes can be seen in a number of performances James turned in for the United reserves with James scoring a searing long-range drive against Preston along with an exquisitely measured through ball for Federico Macheda to score against Newcastle (starting 0:29 in the second video).
These qualities were not to go unnoticed by Sir Alex Ferguson who called James up to the senior side, naming the young midfielder to the substitutes bench for United’s final day victory against Hull City in May 2009. His impressive performances in the reserves earned James a professional contract and he was given the number 43 shirt for the 2009-2010 campaign.
Last season saw James join Championship club Preston North End on loan in February 2010 along with fellow United teammate Danny Wellbeck until the end of the season. James excelled in the Championship, scoring a debut goal against Sheffield United and going on to make eighteen appearances for the Lillywhites. This season sees James rejoin Preston on a season long loan where he has featured in three of Preston’s games so far, scoring once in the League Cup in Preston’s 5-0 win against Stockport.
In addition to his club career, James has also had an illustrious international youth career becoming a regular fixture in the England youth team at various different levels. James was a perennial inclusion in the U-16 and then U-17 side which he captained, before progressing to the U-19 set up in 2009 being part of the team which reached the European U-19 Championship Finals that year. James was given the honour of captaining the U-19 side against Russia in September 2009, an honour he held during this summer’s European U-19 Championship held in France.
Matthew James is a player that has an exciting future in the game. His second loan spell at Preston North End is an opportunity for James to gain some valuable first team experience to help aid his development into a possible Manchester United and England starter in the coming years.