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…
Having arrived from Championship side Swansea in a £15m deal earlier this summer, big things are expected of Manchester United’s new Welsh wizard.
Indeed, at the announcement of his signing, United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer remarked: “Daniel is an exciting young winger with lots of skills, vision, exceptional pace and a good work ethic. He had a great season with Swansea City and has all the attributes needed to become a Manchester United player.”
And it’s fair to say that based on the limited sample of games from pre-season, James is giving United what they sorely lacked last season.
The 21 year-old Wales international has been a live-wire every time he has taken to the pitch this summer and his sheer pace has caused United’s opponents all sorts of problems. In the Red Devils’ first two pre-season games against Perth Glory and Leeds United, James operated from the left-hand side, where he played 25 of his 38 games from last year.
Per Wyscout, in those two matches, the Welshman attempted seven dribbles, of which four of them were successful, and also created four chances. In the clash against Inter however, James moved over to the right-hand side and showed a different facet to his game. The winger’s five touches in the opposition box was the highest of the three pre-season games he has been involved in and showed his ability to adapt his game based on where Solskjaer needs him.
Last season, the Red Devils looked devoid of any pace from the right-hand side with the likes of Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial and even Alexis Sanchez all more comfortable out on the left; it meant more central based players like Jesse Lingard and Juan Mata had to do a job in a more unnatural position from the right flank.
But James’ arrival and subsequent displays in pre-season show his versatility could be key in opening the game onwards for United. If Solskjaer deems that they would be better suited to the counter-attack for a game, using James from the right-hand side could give the Red Devils an added dimension going forward.
Whilst the one disappointment so far has been James’ inability to get a goal for his new side, his searing pace and threat on and off the ball make him a player United have desperately needed.