An away game against Burnley has always been one of those notoriously difficult Premier League fixtures. Sean Dyche’s men unflinching physicality can often be a culture shock for opposition teams, and their willingness to go direct poses a different set of questions to any other side in the division.
It’s no surprise therefore to see them figure at the top of most aerial duels won per game this campaign (25.2), and second on the list for most long balls per match (72). And on Saturday evening, Manchester United were met with exactly that at Turf Moor, and they dealt with it admirably.
The Red Devils won the same amount of aerial duels as their counterparts (21), and made significantly more clearances too (21). And one man who arguably typified United’s rather impressive fighting spirit, was summer signing Daniel James. The former Swansea ace took everything the Burnley defenders could throw at him, and still got up to cause more damage.
Standing at just 5 foot 7, you would have forgiven James for being potentially out-muscled and out-fought. But instead, the Wales international took the fight to the Clarets, and more than often, won the best of the 50/50s. As per Sofascore, he won a ridiculously impressive 11 total duels (10 of them being on the ground) – a tally that was the highest amongst his United teammates.
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And if that wasn’t enough, James also made four tackles, which remarkably was the same as the entire Red Devils team combined. He was fouled on five separate occasions too, but completed the full game and was duly rewarded by providing the assist for Marcus Rashford’s goal to make it 2-0 in injury-time. The game wasn’t about fancy flicks or tricks. It was about earning the right to play, and dealing with the physical intensity of it.
And James rose to the occasion superbly, and showed Solskjaer he has the right attitude and mentality to be a United star in the long-term. The Red Devils have had a difficult start to the campaign thus far in general, but having players like the Welshman in their ranks offers hope that they will fight to the very end for success.