This article is part of Football FanCast’s In Numbers series, which takes a statistical look at performances, season-long form and reported transfer targets…
Despite arguably being the least-heralded of Manchester United’s summer signings considering his lowly £15m price tag, Daniel James has made a huge impression in the early weeks and months of his career at Old Trafford.
The Wales international has quickly become a mainstay of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s first-team this season, making 18 appearances across all competitions. And whilst there may have been concerns as to whether he could make the step-up from a Championship side like Swansea to a true Premier League giant in United, he has well and truly silenced any doubts.
The 22-year-old has registered three goals and four assists, and has added to the Red Devils’ already pace-heavy attack in Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford. But against Aston Villa on Sunday afternoon, James was woefully out-of-sorts, struggling to impose his game, and being physically dominated by the visitors defence.
Lining up in the right-hand side like he has done for the majority of this campaign (he has played there nine times already), James never truly looked like getting the better of Matt Target. The Villa left-back kept him in his back pocket, and refused to him allow the time and space to either run at him or get in behind him.
Instead, his aggressive approach to defending may have taken the United winger by surprise, causing him to lose possession a staggering 18 times. His physically slight frame also didn’t help him when it came to the 50/50s, winning a measly one out of his total ten duels. And then when he did get possession, the Wales international let both himself and his team down with some truly wayward balls into the box.
He completed none of his seven attempted crosses, and made no successful dribbles either, and it was little surprise to see him register the lowest match rating of any player on the pitch as per Sofascore, 5.7. Whether it was a case of just a bad day at the office, or perhaps a touch of burnout, James’ horror showing against the newly-promoted side certainly contributed to his side failing to secure a much-needed win.
It now leaves Solskjaer with a truly major headache on his hands. With the games coming thick and fast, the Norwegian has to think incredibly fast in deciding whether he decides James’ display is just a one-off and he lets him off, or he takes immediate action and drops him from the team for the foreseeable future. The busy Christmas schedule always comes with issues, and the United boss now has a big one on to deal with.
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