Yorkshire born Daniel James has been linked with a move to Manchester United over recent weeks. The 21-year-old winger currently plays for Swansea and has enjoyed a good season in the Championship.
With Ole Gunnar Solskjaer reportedly looking to sign young and hungry players, James has been tipped as someone to fit the bill.
Having started his career in the Hull academy when he was nine, he then left for Swansea when he turned 16 for £72,000. He has represented Wales since U-16 level, qualifying because of his dad, and has won the FAW Youth Cup with Swansea.
Ryan Giggs gave him his competitive debut for Wales in March and he scored their only goal in a 1-0 win over Slovakia in a Euro 2020 qualifying game. After the match, James hailed the influence that manager Giggs and teammate Gareth Bale had on him.
It’s massive for me to learn off the gaffer and Gareth. They’ve obviously shown a lot to me and the gaffer said to me before the game ‘go and do what you’ve been doing at Swansea’. Gareth just said ‘keep getting at the full-back’ and that’s what I did.
Giggs was obviously chuffed that his gamble paid off, with him putting an emphasis on including young players in his international squads, and sung the praises of James after the game.
He’s brought his club form into the international stage. I’m delighted. His overall game was fantastic and to top it with a goal was great. He was just a threat all day. I’m delighted he got the winning goal because that’s what you want. You want players playing regularly and playing well for their club and obviously Dan is doing that at the moment.
He’s a talent, and when you’ve got that raw pace you are a threat at any level. As a winger you have to develop other parts of your game which I feel that he is doing. He’s played up front aswell which will help him because that gives you recognition and appreciation (of strikers). He just needs to carry on what he has been doing for Swansea, it’s as simple as that.
James was supposed to sign for Leeds on loan in the recent January transfer window, with the plan for the deal to be made permanent if they were promoted to the Premier League, but despite the player completing a medical, the two clubs couldn’t reach an agreement in the end. It had been reported that a fee of £10m had been agreed upon but the transfer fell through at the last minute. Leeds had offered to pay £1.5m for the loan period but wouldn’t stump up the cash until the summer, while Swansea wanted the money there and then.
The winger managed four goals and seven assists in 28 starts in the Championship last season, averaging a goal or assist every 228 minutes on the field. No one at Swansea, who finished 10th in the table last season, assisted more goals than him. Only one player was fouled more often than him in the Championship last season too, suggesting his pace is a problem for defenders.
He probably showcased this speed best with his fifth round FA Cup goal against Brentford, when he ran the length of the pitch, racing away from the opposition defence.
“I’m sure there are players a lot quicker than me,” he said a few months ago. “When people compare me to Kylian Mbappe, I am not quicker than him. There are players like Adama Traore in the Premier League who could have been a sprinter. He’s 10.5 (over 100m), I think?”
James claimed that he had clocked 36kph this season. For the sake of comparison, the official Fifa World Cup record on the pitch was set by Arjen Robben in 2014 at 37kph. Traore has also been recorded at that speed, Gareth Bale is just under at 36.9kph, Mbappe 36kph and Leroy Sane at 35.48kph.
His current deal expires next summer, with him failing to sign a new contract despite talks opening last December. The fee being reported at the moment is £15m.
“I want to learn every day,” he said earlier this season. “I am always hungry for more. A lot of people say I’ve come a long way but it doesn’t matter whether it’s been six months or two years – I always want to be better.”
James’ attitude seems right, Giggs is a big fan, he’s fast, he’s young, he’s homegrown, so United could probably do worse than taking a punt on him. Maybe he can bring his Wales teammate David Brooks with him!
Made in Manchester is available for just £5. It includes 30 articles from the country's best football writers about graduates from the Manchester United academy. All profit goes to Trafford Macmillan so please support this fantastic cause.