Daniel James and Wales may have fallen to defeat on Tuesday night in Hungary, damaging their chances of reaching the finals of Euro 2020, but there was enough in the performance of Manchester United's newest face to excite the fans of the club he's joined on Wednesday.
He can carry the ball. I mean, seriously carry it. If you don't know much about James you should read this, but also trust that he's two-footed, able to go either side and pretty exciting. There was a moment in Budapest which showed exactly that, and gave people a glimpse of what he might be able to bring to Old Trafford.
Dribbling down the left, putting the burners on and gliding past people with ease, before cutting inside and creating a chance (which David Brooks should've done better with) was James, who showed for most of the evening he'll be a right pain in the backside for opposition defences in the coming seasons. It wasn't only that moment either - he did it all night.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side's best performances during his short, and let's say mixed, first few months at Old Trafford had one thing in common - they came in games where his side were fit and fresh, but importantly able to lure teams in and hit them on the break with pace. Marcus Rashford benefited most, perhaps, with a flurry of goals, but United never boasted enough options with those qualities to sustain. They ran out of steam and out of options.
😆 In case you hadn't heard...— Manchester United (@ManUtd) June 12, 2019
James will certainly help in that sense. He's United's first signing of the summer and cannot be their last, but it's a promising start to an important summer of business for a group of businessmen who, over the years, have proven that they have no idea what they're doing when it comes to buying players.
His signing is an encouraging deviation from the norm - it's an acquisition of a low profile player (relatively) for a modest fee, and shows some thought process - it has actively addressed one quality in the team which needed strengthening. And the continuous links with the apparent next top target, Aaron Wan-Bissaka, suggests it's a trend that may continue. It's refreshing.
I’m very proud to join the biggest football club in the world. This is a new and exciting chapter in my life and I can’t wait to get started. Thank you to everyone who has shown faith in me. Hard work starts now! 🔴⚪⚫ @ManUtd #MUFC pic.twitter.com/SRHdNpvLLI— Daniel James (@Daniel_James_97) June 12, 2019
There won't be much pressure on James from the start. Solskjaer is keen on signing a more experienced, and ready, right sided player before the window closes to lighten the burden and address the balance. So expect James to play something of a squad role early in the new season with a slow introduction to life at United, but to have a heavier impact over the five years of his contract as he matures.
It's not often we commend United for their transfer business, but this is a good first step. James is flexible and perfectly capable of playing anywhere across the front line - he even started the game up front in Budapest - and perhaps most importantly...he just seems like a perfectly normal, humble young lad who wants to prove himself. Where have all of those been?
The job now is to continue the good start and stop spaffing money up the wall on commercially-motivated disasters.