In the opening 70 minutes at Bramall Lane it looked like the hosts had found a way to nullify the growing influence on matches Dan James is having for Manchester United.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side didn’t look up for the fight and were simply getting bullied by Sheffield United in all departments.
There is clearly a need for an urgent injection of creativity and quality into United’s midfield, but the front three who can be devastating offered very little movement and willingness to run in behind, they were anonymous.
The Red Devils had just one shot in the first half against the Blades, the fewest we have had in the first half of a Premier League game under Solskjaer [Opta].
A difficult 60 minutes
The former Swansea man looked flat during the opening stages and struggled to stamp his authority on the match.
After helping Wales to qualify for the European Championships, the back-to-back matches for Ryan Giggs’ side looked to have taken a lot out of James’ legs, he looked off the pace.
There wasn’t the usual hassling and pressing out of possession, which forces the opposition to rush and panic, just like the team he didn’t seem up for the challenge.
The 22-year-old had found himself some space to run into in the 36th minute and a crossing opportunity, but he was unable to find Marcus Rashford and the ball was easily cleared.
It was at that stage in the match that the Welshman had registered the fewest touches in the match for an outfield player (9).
There was encouragement in the 62nd minute when James managed to get ahead of Enda Stevens probably for the first time in the match, but his cross was too close to Simon Moore who was stepping in for United loanee Dean Henderson.
It was only 10 minutes later that James produced a better cross, which led to Brandon Williams reducing the deficit and scoring his first goal for the club.
The goal out-of-nothing seemed to revitalise United and gave the attacking players that much-needed spring in their step.
After Mason Greenwood had brought the scores level, it was James’ devastating pace and end product that earnt United the lead.
The Welshman exchanged passes with Martial and flew down the left before cutting the ball back to the onrushing Rashford, who smashed the ball home.
It was the 3rd time that James has assisted Rashford in the Premier League this season, the joint most frequent assister-scorer combo in the competition.
The front three had been below par for the majority of the match, but when they burst into alive and combined together, Sheffield United had no answer.
Solskjaer’s favoured front three are only going to get better and the burgeoning relationship and understanding between the talented trio is only going to get stronger.
A rest against Astana will do James the world of good, it may have been an off day in Sheffield judging by the high standards he has already set during his brief time at Old Trafford, but he still found a way to come up with the goods.
Dan James will always find a way to influence matches no matter how poorly he is playing, he can turn it on in a switch and that it is a devastating quality to possess.
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