James Wilson ready for Manchester United reunion

During Ryan Giggs’ interim period in charge in 2014, James Wilson was as exciting as any prospect in the Manchester United youth system.

Giggs gave Wilson his debut against Hull in May of that year and the hitman rewarded his faith with two goals in a 3-1 win.

Now, Giggs and Wilson are back working together – in a way.

In January, Wilson joined League Two outfit Salford City, where Giggs is one of the part-owners, alongside the other members of the Class of 92.

Tonight, Wilson is set to come up against the club who released him at the end of the 2018/19 campaign, as Salford host our Under-23 side in the EFL Trophy group stage.

Wilson has been asked by Salford’s official website about the prospect of going up against his former employers, a side potentially even including former team-mates.

Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images

“I’ve kept tabs on the youth… because I’m still a United fan at heart. I’ll know a few players and how they play.

“I might even have played with a few if they play an older side! It’ll feel weird but I’m looking forward to it.”

But after breaking onto the scene in such spectacular fashion under Giggs, what happened to Wilson?

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It started well for Wilson under Louis van Gaal, and the Dutchman threw him into the fray from the start for a 3-0 home win over Liverpool in December 2014.

He made 13 Premier League appearances in 2014/15, but scored just the once and his United career never really recovered.

Three Championship loan spells in three seasons at Brighton, Derby and Sheffield United followed, but Wilson didn’t set the world alight during any of his temporary periods in the second tier.

United didn’t even hand Wilson a squad number ahead of the 2018/19 campaign, then managed by Jose Mourinho, who sent him on loan to Aberdeen.


Wilson was never going to be a Mourinho striker; he’s too small, inexperienced and unproven for the Portuguese’s usual tastes.

He might have hoped to fare better under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, but the Norwegian oversaw his release and he joined Aberdeen on a permanent basis thereafter.

Based on the talent Wilson showed during his early days at United, he has the ability to play at a higher level than League Two.

What he needs to do now is play regular games and score goals in men’s football, where the results matter so much more.

He could catch the eye by winning the match against United’s current young crop tonight, and at 24, he still has plenty of time to make his mark on the game.

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Sam Preston is an NCTJ gold standard news and sports journalist who studied with the Press Association. He also has a 2:1 law with French law degree from the University of Birmingham, which included a year studying at Bordeaux Montaigne University. He is an FA Level 1 football coach who appeared on the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire show in 2018 and has also written digital football content and match-day programme pieces for Colchester United, Mansfield Town and Stockport County.