Manchester United

Daniel James admits he was 'playing safe' at Man Utd

Tom Gott
Daniel James joined Leeds on deadline day
Daniel James joined Leeds on deadline day / Chris Brunskill/Fantasista/Getty Images
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Daniel James has confessed that he lost his fearless approach to matches towards the end of his time at Manchester United.

James sealed a long-awaited £30m move to Leeds United on transfer deadline day, putting an end to an up-and-down two years at Old Trafford. He got off to an electric start, bagging three goals in his first four games, but soon began to fall down the pecking order.

He left United having managed just nine goals and nine assists in 74 appearances, and in an interview with The Telegraph, James admitted that his loss of form came about because of an uncontrollable shift in his mentality.

“I think everyone goes through part of their career where you don’t realise something is happening until you look back and have good people around you to analyse that,” he said. “I started thinking, ‘What does he do that I can do?’ rather than thinking just about my game and being myself. It got to the point where I was being a bit safe in games.

“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.”

James will hope to showcase that fearlessness at Leeds, who finally landed the Welshman over two years after coming within minutes of bringing him in from Swansea.

The winger was at Elland Road and ready to be unveiled as a new signing, only for Swansea to stop returning Leeds' calls as the deadline approached. The transfer could not be confirmed and James had to return to Swansea, only to leave for United six months later.

“It’s great for him to still believe in me after two and a half years,” James said of manager Marcelo Bielsa. “I’ve spoken to Tyler [Roberts] to get a bit of insight and I’m trying to do as much research while I’m away to get an insight into how players in my positions play and what actions they make. I think you always want a little bit of insight before you go in about how things work but everyone knows from the outside that it’s hard work.

“But you’ve seen with the players he’s had over the years how much he’s improved them and that’s the thing I’m looking forward to most - seeing how he sees football. He obviously thinks I can fit in that system.

“But don’t get me wrong, I don’t think I’m going to walk into that team. Hopefully I can adapt quickly to the system but I think it’s going to take me a little while. It’s very tactical but he’s got a way of playing that I feel suits me.”

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