Manchester United didn’t get it right in Dan James’ debut season. He was overplayed due to a lack of options and his form suffered because of it.
After starting this season with a dud of a performance against Palace and also struggling in early EFL Cup rounds, he was sidelined, and speculation began to mount over his future.
The Sun linked James with an exit, with Palace, West Brom and Leeds all linked.
It would have been easy for United to cut James adrift, either on loan or permanently. He wasn’t contributing positively to the team, and investments had been made in new up and coming wingers Amad Diallo and Facundo Pellistri, while Mason Greenwood’s emergence had forced him out of the team.
Solskjaer went for a different approach. He gave James time.
James has got his confidence back
James has scored two goals in his last two games and the figures are even more impressive when looking back.
In his last eight games for United he has five goals and one assist, a very healthy return.
He has only featured in eight of the last 35 games, with Solskjaer holding him back and keen not to over-expose him again before he was ready.
James is now looking like a Manchester United player. He believes in himself and he is full of confidence.
The way he took his late goal against Sociedad was outstanding, picking up the ball out wide, driving towards goal and lashing it into the net. This came just minutes after he missed a one-on-one, and showed that he didn’t let it affect him negatively.
Scoring a crucial goal in the win over Newcastle will also do wonders for his confidence. His previous goals had come in games United had won anyway. This one was a decisive one and James can feel like he made a very valuable contribution.
Solskjaer deserves credit for getting James back on track. He has played a key role in helping several United players kick on.
Luke Shaw, Fred, and Scott McTominay are among the players who have grown and improved their performance levels under Solskjaer.
It is credit to the United boss that he is getting the most out of what he has. James has more to give, and he has shown that in recent weeks.
Even in December, a report from The Sun claimed four sides wanted to take James on loan. United resisted any advances which came their way, despite him only playing a bit-part role at the time.
Now the decision to keep him is paying off. James needs to keep performing well to keep proving his manager right.
As he learned at the start of the 2019/20 season, a strong patch of form can quickly disappear.
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