Manchester United are closing in on the signing of Swansea winger Daniel James – but what will the young Welshman bring to Old Trafford and could he go straight into Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s plans for next season?
Last summer James was close to a loan spell with League Two Yeovil but, after a breakout season in the Championship, the 21-year-old has become one of the most sought-after youngsters around and now looks set to be given a chance at one of the biggest clubs in the world.
Fact file: Daniel James
- Name: Daniel Owen James
- Place of birth: Beverley, England
- Club: Swansea City
- Country: Wales
- Age: 21
- Position: Winger
- Goals/Assists (18/19): 5/10
- Int. Caps/Goals: 2/1
Last season, James made 33 appearances for Swansea, as manager Graham Potter – who has since moved on to Brighton – rebuilt the team after their relegation from the Premier League and secured a 10th-place finish.
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James was one of the Swans’ emerging talents who profited from the reshuffle and he seized his chance, scoring six goals across all competitions, including a stunning solo effort against Brentford in the FA Cup which demonstrated his lightning-quick pace.
That speed has been a real asset in the Championship. James ranked third in the division for fast breaks per 90 minutes last season, and his pace allowed him to take up dangerous positions in the final third, where he ranked fifth among the most frequent shooters in the second tier.
Indeed, only four players averaged more touches in the opposition box per 90 minutes in the 2018/19 Championship season.
Those numbers will appeal to Manchester United fans, whose side are in search of some attacking inspiration after a frustrating campaign which saw them finish sixth in the Premier League and score just 33 times in 19 home games.
Could James already compete with Jesse Lingard and Anthony Martial for the wide attacking roles at United? And with just one season of senior football under his belt, is he ready for the leap up?
Sky Sports’ EFL expert David Prutton believes so.
“Is he good enough for the current incarnation of Manchester United? I don’t see why not,” he told Sky Sports.
“Why not get someone in who is rapid and confident and has the exuberance of youth to put the cat among the pigeons? They need something to liven them up, so why not give him the chance?
“He can go in there fearless, not to the point where he is careless, but so he can express himself. He has been well coached under Graham Potter at Swansea and now is the chance to show what he can do on a bigger stage.
“He has the kind of electric pace that is reminiscent of United wingers of yesteryear. It will be fascinating to see what happens for him there.”
How James nearly joined Leeds
James was on the brink of becoming a Leeds United player on Deadline Day in January. The winger had completed a medical and agreed terms with Swansea’s Championship rivals, only for his parent club to pull the plug on a £10m move at the last minute.
One of those former United wingers is already a big fan. Wales boss Ryan Giggs handed James his international debut in November and the attacker found the net on just his second appearance for his country to clinch a 1-0 win over Slovakia in a European Qualifier in March.
“He is a talent, and when you have got that raw pace you are a threat at any level,” said Giggs after the Slovakia win.
“As a winger, you then have to develop the other parts of the game, which I feel that he is doing.”
James has received plenty of praise this term. Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola singled him out after his side’s FA Cup win over Swansea, describing him as “incredibly fast”, while Potter reckoned James’ display against Stoke in a league game in April was one of the best individual performances he’d seen. “I’ve run out of superlatives,” said the former Swansea manager.
Now, all eyes will be on the talented, tricky winger to see whether he can carry that exciting potential into the Premier League.