In Focus: James can be a Leed-ing man again after United escape

Mitchell Fretton
LiveScore
26/11/202116:00
Daniel James has started well at Leeds after missing out on a move there in 2019
Daniel James has started well at Leeds after missing out on a move there in 2019

Daniel James has appeared revitalised at Leeds this season.

The winger made the switch from Manchester United in the summer after finding it difficult to break into the starting XI at Old Trafford.

James has started to flourish under the guidance of Leeds manager Marcelo Bielsa and scored his first goal for the club against Tottenham last weekend.

Ahead of the trip to Brighton tomorrow, we take a look at the Welshman's role and how integral he could become in Bielsa's high-press system.

Utilising his pace

Those who have watched Leeds this season will know that James is an exceptionally fast player.

James recorded the second-fastest speed at Euro 2020 this summer after being clocked at 20.8mph — only Italy's Leonardo Spinazzola exceeded him.

A key part of the 24-year-old's game is his quick drop of the shoulder and ability to leave any defender in his wake, while his stamina allows him to harass the opposition all over the field in defence.

And James has started to show signs of becoming a composed finisher in front of goal.

His strike against Spurs on Sunday was excellently taken — the speedster got himself into the perfect area to guide home Jack Harrison's pinpoint cross.

But while James is capable of finding space in the final third, his end product does need to improve. 

Daniel James scored his first goal of the season at Tottenham on Sunday
Daniel James scored his first goal of the season at Tottenham on Sunday

Disappointment at United

When James made the move to Old Trafford in the summer of 2019, he was regarded as a top talent in the Championship bursting with potential.

But only two years later, the winger left Manchester having scored just six Premier League goals. 

The Welshman netted three times in his first four matches at the club but his energy and desire were not enough to bring success to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's underperforming side.

And having reflected upon his time at the Red Devils, James has since stated that he played it too safe.

He said: "I got bought for my direct play, running in behind, running with the ball, trying things and not being afraid to lose the ball but slowly I started to come away from that and play a little safe.

"When I stepped back, it was remembering to be direct, to be that person. Safe is dangerous in the position I play.

"You’re not there to do that — you’re there to score goals and make assists and run yourself into the ground on and off the ball."

Daniel James has made an impact for Leeds this season
Daniel James has made an impact for Leeds this season

Leeds almost signed James in January 2019 with the forward making the trip to Elland Road for a medical only for Swansea to pull the plug on a deadline-day move at the last minute and sell him to United six months later.

A combination of Cristiano Ronaldo's return to the Theatre of Dreams and Jadon Sancho's signing meant that chances would be severely limited if the 30-cap international stayed this season.

And after Leeds swooped to finally land their long-term target in a £25million deal, he is beginning to show what he can do in the English top-flight.

James' confidence has returned and he averages 1.5 shots per game in the Premier League this season.

But he will need to start finding the back of the net more often with Leeds finding themselves in a relegation battle this term.

Versatile in attack

A key strength to James' game is that he is confident with both feet. 

This allows the 5ft 7in ace to have an impact in any position across the Leeds front line as he can either cut in and shoot or take his opponent on in a wider position.

The versatility of James was hailed by Solskjaer during his time in charge at United. 

The former boss said: "Dan can play all across the front line.

"Obviously more right or left wing but he can play through the middle as well."

The Hull youth product agreed with his former boss, saying that he does not mind where he plays as long as he is helping the team.

He said: "For me, that left position was always my favourite but I like being versatile and playing anywhere across the front three providing I’m in the team." 

Daniel James has taken on multiple shots from outside the box for Leeds
Daniel James has taken on multiple shots from outside the box for Leeds

Earning his spot

James will have known that he would have to fight for his place at Leeds from the moment he signed his contract.

The likes of Harrison and Raphinha have both been excellent for Leeds since signing.

James, meanwhile, has often been a bigger performer for his country than his club.

This healthy competition may do the Dragons flier some good as he looks to recapture his best form.

James has been handed an opportunity to shine while Raphinha recovers from injury and certainly grabbed it with both hands against Tottenham.

Now he must look to build on that performance to put his Theatre of Dreams nightmare fully behind him.

Tags

Premier LeagueLeedsDaniel JamesWales

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