Manchester United looked tired on a sweltering Cologne night in their Europa League quarter final against FC Copenhagen.
Bruno Fernandes’s extra time penalty earned the Red Devils a place in the last four, but it was something of a slog.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer watched his side struggle to get up to full speed, but opted against any chances to his frontline until the conclusion of 90 minutes, when Juan Mata replaced Mason Greenwood.
What about James?
When Daniel James made his United debut – a year ago to the day – in the 4-0 thumping of Chelsea, he looked the perfect impact sub.
His searing pace caused the Blues real problems and he netted a goal in front of the Stretford End.
Injuries meant that James probably played more games than he should have done after coming direct from the Championship, but now the pieces are all in place for him to resume that mantle as supersub.
But with Copenhagen tiring last night and Marcus Rashford underwhelming, James remained on the substitutes bench.
It’s not the first time
Last night wasn’t the first time Solskjaer elected not to use the £15 million (BBC) man in a game which seemed perfect for him to influence off the bench.
As United were dominated by West Ham at Old Trafford in July, James remained unused, and he only got six minutes on a similarly frustrating night at home to Southampton not long before (Transfermarkt).
It seems an odd stance to take with a player who has the pace and work-rate to unsettle tiring defences and drag United forward when games go flat.
Rashford had four unsuccessful touches and two dispossessions (WhoScored), but Solskjaer stuck with the England man once again.
An impact sub role would be perfect for James right now – and for next season. Solskjaer’s unwillingness to deploy him in games like last night’s is confusing.
The difficulty is that by bringing James on, you have to take another player off. And Solskjaer evidently considers there is just too big a gulf in quality between Mason Greenwood, Marcus Rashford, and James. It is the Welshman’s job to try and show his manager he can bridge that gap.
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