ole gunnar solskjaer
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was like the cat that got the cream after signing Daniel James from Swansea Photo by TAKleven, CC BY-SA 2.0)

Welsh international winger Daniel James has made quite the impact since his unexpected move to Manchester United from Swansea City. The 21-year-old had a breakthrough 2018/19 season in the Championship with the South Wales side, scoring four goals in 33 competitive appearances. For those who base their soccer opinions solely on statistics, you’d be forgiven for scratching your head as to why United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was so desperate to bring James to Old Trafford.

The Norwegian boss is keen to oversee a revolution of the Red Devils squad,moulding a new-look, youthful squad that can evolve over several years to become a winning machine. Daniel James fit firmly into Solskjaer’s philosophy of fast, attacking football. That’s because James boasts electrifying speed and acceleration; attributes which have drawn comparisons between James and former United heroes such as Cristiano Ronaldo.

 Dan James nearly became part of Marcelo Bielsa’s revolution at Elland Road (Photo by Alejandro Vasquez Nunez, CC BY 2.0 )
It could have all been so different for James had his former employers decided to play ball with Marcelo Bielsa’s Leeds United in January. Leeds were very keen to sign James before the closure of the transfer window, with Bielsa seeing him as the final piece in their promotion-winning jigsaw. Nevertheless, Swansea opted to stand firm and refuse all offers, with Manchester United moving quickest to snap up the Welshman this summer.

Daniel James actually came through the youth ranks at Hull City. He joined the Tigersat the tender age of nine and worked his way through the academy. At the end of the 2013/14 campaign, James was considered ready to make his debut for the Hull City reserves side, aged 16. His performances soon caught the eye of Swansea, who were still in the Premier League at this point. Swansea eventually negotiated a deal worth an initial £72,000 to capture the services of James, who was fast-tracked into Swansea’s successful under-23 side.

It wasn’t long before James’ performances in the development squads saw him knocking on the door of the first team. He was part of the Swans’ travelling squad to face Oxford United in their January 2016 FA Cup tie. James was also named on the bench of the first team in Swansea’s Premier League clash with Stoke City later that year. At the start of the 2017/18 campaign, Swansea were keen to get James out on loan for a full season of regular first team football. However, a move to League One Shrewsbury was terminated just a month into his spell, with the Shrews not prepared to play him every week.

It was a further six months until James was deemed ready for first team action in a Swansea shirt, debuting in February 2018 against Notts County. He scored in their 8-1 demolition of County, before scoring his first goal for the club in November against Norwich. New boss Graham Potter made James an integral player in his side after arriving at the helm from Swedish football and within three months of stunning performances he had caught the eye of Leeds United scouts.

Fast forward to September 2019 and James has already become something of a fans’ favourite at Old Trafford. He scooped the player of the month award for August, scoring three times in four appearances. The club’s faith in James – giving him a five-year deal with the option for a further year – must surely give him confidence to play with freedom. As a relative unknown quantity in the top flight, James could be the ace up Solskjaer’s sleeve as his youthful side look to make inroads on the Champions League qualification places. If you are someone that enjoys the odd prop bet, FOX Bet have launched their Premier League markets, allowing you to wager on United’s chances of finishing in the top four at the end of 2019/20.

The talents of Daniel James haven’t escaped the attention of former United legend, Ryan Giggs. The now-Wales manager has called up James to the Welsh senior squad in recent games, making his debut in Albania last November. If there’s anyone who can help James progress as a world-class winger and become one of the richest players on the planet it’s Ryan Giggs.