Dan James was an unsurprising starter for Manchester United on the first day of the season against Leeds.

James played a key role in a win over Leeds last season, and with Marcus Rashford sidelined and Anthony Martial, Edinson Cavani, Jadon Sancho, Amad, and Anthony Elanga all either ineligible, unfit, or not ready to start, there was a chance for the Welsh winger to stake his claim.

While James lacked a cutting edge in front of goal with just one of three attempts hitting the target, his work rate and industry set the tone United needed against one of the league’s fittest teams on the first day of the season.

Any player coming into the side will have to match James for effort in addition to the quality they provide. James made three tackles against Leeds, more than any United player, per FBRef.

Manchester United v Leeds United - Premier League
(Photo by Ash Donelon/Manchester United via Getty Images)

Unbeaten in nearly a year

Whenever James is named on Manchester United’s teamsheet, there is a typical overreaction from fans on social media who would prefer a more exciting name in the starting line-up.

So it is worth highlighting United’s impressive record with Dan James in the side, as a starter and as a substitute.

Manchester United have not lost a match which James has featured in – barring a penalty shootout defeat – since the first day of last season against Crystal Palace.

 

This includes nine Champions League and Europa League matches, two domestic cup matches, and 15 matches now in the Premier League.

That totals 26 consecutive games United are unbeaten with James in the side.

Or if you prefer to count the 1-1 extra-time draw Europa League final as a defeat, then James remains unbeaten in 17 domestic league and cup games.

These matches include games against Chelsea (2), Leeds (2), Manchester City, Leicester City, Aston Villa, and West Ham, and Wolves.

Manchester United v Everton - Pre-season Friendly
(Photo by Matthew Peters/Manchester United via Getty Images)

The record underlines why Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is not scared of starting James, and is confident United are strong as a collective with the winger in the side, even if his game may lack the individual sparkle of others.

James is an important squad player, and while we can’t guarantee he will still be a United player in two or three years time if he wants regular football and the likes of Amad and even Facundo Pellistri develop, in the here and now, he is an important part of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s squad.

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