Opinion: In defence of Daniel James

Almost 18-months-ago Daniel James made the move from Championship side Swansea to Manchester United, a dream move for any young footballer. The Welsh international signed for £15m plus add ons, he has played over 50 games for the club so far but his career at the club has not been the dream it should have been.

James’ career on the pitch started with a goal on his Manchester United debut in a 4-0 win over Chelsea on the first day of the 19/20 season. This however was a moment of great joy for him but tinged with sadness with the tragic news of his father’s passing before his move to United.

He scored 3 goals in his opening four games and his pace and directness showed that this was a very astute signing, and this was a very promising player for the future. However, United’s form fluctuated from great to very poor and as a result Daniel James was a casualty of this.

Constant changes in personnel and formations meant that he didn’t get the game time he needed for his development, a young player who was always going to need time to adjust to the Premier League was slowly becoming the latest scapegoat for the online “fans”.

While most fans understood he was a player signed for the future and was thrown into more games than he would have been expecting to play through inadequacies in recruitment.

Thus, a player who should have been looking at making around 20/25 appearances and easing himself into the squad suddenly found out how unforgiving life is a top club. A young player who has undoubted potential but still has a lot to learn is the latest in a long line of United players who have become the lightning rod for abuse from fans online.

Darren Fletcher, Tom Cleverley, Romelu Lukaku are all players who have been lambasted by fans for their ability. Fletcher was seen as “Fergie’s Son” as to why he kept getting selected and Tom Cleverley received horrendous abuse during the David Moyes 2013/14 season.

Romelu Lukaku was a player at United who was criticised and made fun of for his lack of a first touch by numerous fans and big United social media accounts when he was a good goal scorer at the club.

Fans focused on their deficiencies rather than their abilities and now Daniel James is sadly the latest player in the crosshairs. Several big-name players have been at the club and flopped but have been given lots of leeway for the odd flash of brilliance.

Anthony Martial and Paul Pogba in particular are two players who routinely have underwhelmed based on their ability, but their performances are always a team/management/tactical problem, yet the same energy is not used for other players.

We all have our favourites, and we are willing to overlook their bad performances and mistakes but sometimes we deflect blame onto other players to try to take the heat off them as I myself have been guilty of this.

The club’s fanbase is a very temperamental one to say the least in terms of online mood, the club is not what it was and doesn’t challenge for honours like it did a decade ago. Anger has manifested itself in targeting certain players not deemed good enough but always seem to miss the bigger picture.

Daniel James has phenomenal pace and acceleration which make him a nightmare for any defence but with less room to run into in the Premier League he needs to adapt and that takes time, but time is a commodity that is in short supply at Old Trafford unless you have your own Twitter fanbase behind you.

He needs a run of games and to be coached and protected and allowed to develop but in the current culture at the club this makes it very difficult. His performances for Wales have been encouraging and his performance against Finland with a stunning goal and assist goes to highlight that there is a real player there.

Better players have come and fallen victim to the problems surrounding the club in the last few years, United legend and Wales National Team manager Ryan Giggs recommended James to Ole Gunner Solskjaer so there is a real player there and Giggs would know all the qualities to be a good Winger at United.

Numerous changes in formation and personnel coupled with almost constant rumours about a new manager coming in means that giving players time to develop isn’t a luxury that Solskjaer has at the moment. He needs results to keep his job in the short term, so patience is not always a virtue right now.

This club is unforgiving as flaws in anyone’s games are highlighted and magnified and analysed to the Nth degree by pundits and fans alike. The spotlight shines brightly but it can also be too much for some, sadly some players get pushed under the bus to protect others.

Daniel James is a talented young player who is making a huge step up in terms of quality on the pitch but also the scrutiny that comes with playing for the biggest club in England. I personally believe he is a good player but needs time to develop and refine his game.

It may come that United is not the right club for him and there will be no shortage of clubs who will want to take him with Leeds under Marcelo Bielsa and his ex-Swansea managers Graham Potter at Brighton being the two obvious favourites.

Daniel James’ United career is still young, and I would like to see what he can do and how he fits in but let’s not destroy his confidence just because a Twitter account with a footballer as a picture doesn’t rate him.

I hope we are all proven wrong by Daniel James and he becomes a great player for United but let’s not destroy his career before we see what he can actually do, we need to be patient and give players time. Otherwise, he will be the next player added to a list of players whose only crimes were they weren’t perfect footballers.

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