Daniel James: Winger’s future in the spotlight ahead of Man Utd v Leeds

Paul Macdonald
Paul Macdonald Updated: 20 May 2021 12:26 CEST 3 min read
Daniel James: Winger’s future in the spotlight ahead of Man Utd v Leeds

With the January transfer window fast approaching, Manchester United’s match against rivals Leeds United on Sunday will cause a moment of reflection for Daniel James.

The United winger could easily have been in a different dressing room.

James, 23, was on the brink of joining Leeds from Swansea City in January 2019 and was devastated when the move fell through.

Six months later, he was signing at Old Trafford on a long-term contract for a fee worth at least £15 million.

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  • When he scored on his debut as United emphatically beat Chelsea 4-0 in front of their ecstatic supporters, the future looked bright.

    Eighteen months on, James finds himself on the fringes at United and facing a big January decision over whether to leave on loan.

    Will James stay at United?

    A report from the Manchester Evening News has detailed that James’ initial desire is to stay at United beyond the January transfer window.

    Having scored in his last appearance in the Champions League against Istanbul Basaksehir, he hopes there is a path back into Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s plans.

    But he has not played in the Premier League since a poor performance against Chelsea on October 24.

    Overall, he has featured for only 180 minutes in the top flight this season.

    James did not start any of the club’s six Champions League games either.

    Mason Greenwood, Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford and Juan Mata are all ahead of him in the pecking order.

    It is a stark contrast to last season, where he featured 33 times in the Premier League (26 starts).

    But his form tailed off badly – his return of three goals all came in the month of August 2019 and he had all of his six assists before 2020 began.

    James has been a bit-part player ever since the Premier League restart and that looks unlikely to change, though United dropping into the Europa League offers one potential route to the pitch.

    Having starred for Wales in a recent Nations League outing against Finland, he is said to be feeling the pressure to play regularly and be in the best possible shape ahead of Euro 2020.

    Brighton and Leeds linked

    Should United and James agree he should leave on loan, there appear to be plenty of teams eager for an injection of pace.

    Brighton have emerged as front-runners and The Sun report James would be keen to play under Graham Potter again.

    It was his season under Potter with Swansea in the Championship that brought James to the attention of Leeds and later United.

    United’s opponents, Leeds, continue to be linked with him even though they brought in wingers in the summer. If James does see the field, he will be closely watched.

    Everton have also been credited with an interest in the past and with a loan move being relatively low-risk, other Premier League sides – particularly those struggling in the bottom half – can be expected to express an interest.

    James now faces a key decision in January, one which will prove key to determining if he ever has a long-term future with United.