The latest Swansea City news sent straight to your inboxSign upWhen you subscribe we will use the information you provide to send you these newsletters. Your information will be used in accordance with ourPrivacy Notice.
“Of course, this kid James, they have to rely a lot on him, because he is fast, he’s the one who can break defenders.”
The words of Jose Mourinho about Daniel James, star of Wales’ Euro 2020 campaign so far.
In the two games they have played to date, the Manchester United winger has had the most consistent impact.
In a poor team display against Switzerland, James was a thorn in the side of Wales’ opponents, scaring the life out of their backline with his electric pace.
Newcastle United defender Fabian Schar had to resort to illegal means to stop the former Swansea City man in his tracks, earning himself the yellowest of yellow cards in the process.
Wales are very much a counter-attacking side at present and chief to that threat is the 23-year-old, who not just plays on the shoulder, but basically sets up camp and gets his post redirected there. Mourinho is absolutely spot on about James – his speed can torment the most experienced and rugged defensive systems.
against the central Europeans was debated on radio phone-ins and on television after the game, with responses mixed.
From this writer’s perspective you like to see players annoyed at their hooking, and his shocked expression was understandable considering he had been Wales’ best player at that point.
James has since apologised to his manager for the manner in which he reacted to the substitution.
“At the time I was just concentrating on getting the points. We’d just scored, the adrenaline was high and maybe I shouldn’t have reacted like that,” the winger added.
“But I spoke to the manager after the game, I apologised and said at the time I just wanted to play and push for the three points.
“He said he would much rather I came off like that than being happy to come off.”
It’s all water under the bridge now, and his showing against Turkey in midweek was yet another clinic in now how to hit teams on the break.
His speed is absolutely frightening, and combined with Gareth Bale, Aaron Ramsey and Kieffer Moore, James makes up an almost perfect attacking blend of pace, vision, strength and agility.
Ashley Williams, Neil Taylor and former Wales boss Mark Hughes waxed lyrical about James following the win over Turkey, and it hammered home his importance not just to his international side but his domestic team too.
His future at Old Trafford appears murky.
United’s pursuit of Jadon Sancho is well documented. He is a confirmed target this summer, and after last season’s posturing one would assume that they will get their man this time around.
His impending arrival would spell bad news for James, who has already struggled for game-time under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer this term.
Obviously, the winger is not without his faults. His crossing and end product need fine-tuning but he is an asset to any manager.
James was the Norwegian’s first signing at United and one suspects there is a close bond between coach and player because of that.
At 23, being in and out of starting line-ups isn’t a disaster but regular football suits players like James and it would not be a surprise if they cashed in on him this summer.
Club legend Gary Neville feels they will, judging by his comments towards the end of the season.
“If you look at the policy over the last couple of years since Ole has come in, I don’t think they will sign another striker,” Neville said on Sky Sports’ Monday Night Football last month.
“I haven’t got the contacts on the inside that I used to have, so it’s my assumption because they’ve been desperate for Sancho.
“They didn’t get Sancho and they were criticised for that, I criticised them for that. But they could look incredibly smart this year if they get him for near half the price and they’ve waited 12 months.
“I think Juan Mata has done fantastically well for the club but I think he’ll leave.
“I think they can get good money for Daniel James, but again, he could go somewhere else and they can get good money for him.
“There’s a feeling that Jesse Lingard, he’s done really well at West Ham, but I think Ole will say no, he can explore and go elsewhere. Van de Beek has to stay, in my opinion.
“The rest of them: Rashford, Fernandes, Greenwood, Pogba, Martial, Van de Beek and Cavani – if Manchester United were to sign Harry Kane and Sancho, for example, then will Cavani play? Will Greenwood? Where will that leave Rashford?
“Where does Pogba fit in, if Ole plays two defensive midfielders as he does, with Fernandes in front because he’s a guarantee.
“I think Sancho comes in and he plays on that right-hand side, you’ve potentially got the back-up of Greenwood on that side, you’ve got Cavani and Greenwood up front.
“On the left, you’ve got Rashford and Martial and then you’ve got Pogba who potentially fits in if he’s not in midfield.
“If you sign Kane or Haaland, I don’t think that basically works for United with the way they’ve recruited in the last few years. Allowing young players like Greenwood, making sure Rashford plays, Van de Beek getting a game.
“I think it’s Sancho and then that’s their business done.”
United are almost in a win-win situation right now with James. If he plays well during this tournament, two things could happen.
His stellar form convinces Solskjaer that he is worthy of a place in his squad come the start of next season and will fight for his position within the first-team group.