One of the most difficult aspects of playing for Manchester United is to really prove that you belong.
Romelu Lukaku famously struggled to produce in big matches. Memphis Depay and Morgan Schneiderlin were other recent additions who could not meet expectations.
Only three signings were made this summer, an underwhelming amount, but United look to have a 100 per cent success rate with the new additions.
Harry Maguire, Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Dan James all signed with differing levels of experience. Maguire was a Premier League regular, Wan-Bissaka had just one season in the top flight, and James just one year in the Championship.
All three look like they have been playing for United for years. Or at least they did this past week, in big game victories against Tottenham and Manchester United.
The right temperament
The trio were all superb in United’s victory at The Etihad. Wan-Bissaka was the man-of-the-match, shutting down Raheem Sterling and one of the league’s most potent attacks.
Maguire made 10 clearances as United stood firm and repelled City’s advances. It was one of his best performances for the club since joining.
Dan James has been the biggest success story of all. There was little to no expectation on him heading into the season, and he is making himself undroppable. Against City he was so important, causing problems in attack and working hard to defend from the front.
He has the right attitude, and all three players have the right temperament. They are becoming proven big game players who United can rely on.
Maguire’s success shouldn’t come as a surprise. He was excellent for Leicester last season at The Etihad, and has played in a World Cup semi-final.
James too has international exploits helping his development, while anybody who watched Wan-Bissaka weekly last season will have seen he is not intimidated one bit by reputations.
These three signings set the standard for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s future additions in January and next summer.
Improvements to make
James, Maguire and Wan-Bissaka can all improve. You look at Maguire and Wan-Bissaka’s defensive displays on Saturday and ask how they conceded five goals in two matches against Aston Villa and Sheffield United.
Wan-Bissaka’s attacking prowess is an area he needs to improve, and he is young enough to still develop his game.
James too has seen his goals trail off. He has not scored in his last 10 matches for club or country – but he does have three assists including one on Saturday night.
All three players will want to kick on, but the steps they have shown in their development already is huge.
James especially has made a major step to go from the Championship, to be relied upon as a big game performer for Manchester United. He now has an assist against both City and Liverpool, and a goal against Chelsea.
United’s record against the top teams this season has been outstanding. The new signings have all played a key role, and their performances suggest Solskjaer can continue to rely on them when it matters most.
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