After an indifferent start to the season which followed his post-lockdown form, Dan James unleashed a rocket of a strike in November for Wales against Finland to put his frustrations behind him.
His long range effort appears to have boosted his confidence. Since then he can’t stop scoring.
James has scored four goals in six games since – four starts and two appearances as substitute.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has been reluctant to use him during this span.
United have played 26 games since the international break and James has featured in just seven.
In those seven matches he has now has four goals and one assist. It’s a terrific return from an under-utilised player.
Expect to see more of him
James’ performance against Real Sociedad underlined what he had been threatening to do in his limited appearances since.
Unfortunately for him, two of his four starts, against Leicester and Watford, were disappointing individual performances. Against Sociedad he put it all together.
James is producing with a level of consistency at present which makes him worth a further look. Especially considering the way United struggled to break West Brom down last weekend.
He will likely play some role against Newcastle this weekend, whether as a starter or a substitute. He has earned it.
It’s been frustrating to see Solskjaer reluctant to use him from the bench in games considering how his pace is an asset to stretch teams. It shows the United boss has lost some trust in him. James may now have earned it back.
Solskjaer said after the game that he saw James as vital to how he wanted to set up, after a re-assessment of United’s approach after the West Brom draw.
He told the club website: “We knew they would have a high line and not have the same pace as Marcus and Dan so we targeted those spaces. We just wanted to be back to ourselves again. The last few weeks, I don’t know how you say it in English but it’s been staccato, stop start and we’ve not really performed. It was about finding ourselves, being positive.”
Another opportunity could come against Real Sociedad at Old Trafford next week.
Then there are crunch games away to Chelsea and Manchester City. James started both corresponding fixtures last season in the Premier League and he is coming back into form at the right time.
The challenge for James is to take advantage of any opportunities he gets. From his four starts since the break he has scored twice, the other two have been more unproductive.
He has at least earned the shot for more opportunities. With Amad Diallo coming up behind him he has to take them. James has shown though that he is an under-utilised asset, and he could have a big role to play in the coming weeks, and possibly right through until the end of the season.
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