David de Gea and Daniel James are two Manchester United stars who could be forgiven for being unsatisfied with how last season ended.
For the Spaniard, another season littered with mistakes and debate about his form culminated in a high-profile error against Chelsea in the FA Cup semi-final.
Meanwhile, James found himself out of favour, on the bench and barely trusted by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to come off the bench and change a game.
That’s despite Marcus Rashford carrying an injury which noticeably hampered his form and James’ searing pace seemingly perfect for exploiting tired defences.
The duo were likely glad for the change of scene provided by the international break.
Spain and Wales kicked off their Nations League campaigns last night and both men took the opportunity to impress expertly.
De Gea drawing praise
De Gea was WhoScored‘s Man of the Match as Spain drew 1-1 with Germany in Stuttgart last night.
His seven saves kept Luis Enrique’s side in the match before Jose Gaya’s last-gasp equaliser salvaged a point.
Former Barcelona boss Enrique was full of praise for his stopper after the game.
“When he [De Gea] makes a mistake, everyone talks. When playing a game like this [last night], we should say hello to him.
“It would be good if tomorrow he was on the cover of an important newspaper, or they published ‘what a goalkeeper we have’.”
Enrique’s comments hit on the perennial problem for goalkeepers. When they do their jobs, they seldom get praised.
When they make mistakes, goalkeepers are scrutinised and de Gea has faced intense criticism of late.
It’s great to see signs he’s quietly regaining his form. Perhaps he’s rising to the challenge of Dean Henderson’s return.
James takes chance to shine
De Gea wasn’t the only Red Devil to scoop a Man of the Match award last night.
James also topped WhoScored’s rankings as Ryan Giggs’ Wales side earned a hard-fought 1-0 away win over Finland.
He showed the spark that had been missing in some recent United appearances, with two key passes and three dribbles.
James laid on Keiffer Moore’s winning goal and Solskjaer will be pleased to see the wideman making contributions which influence matches once again.
The international break provides the Welshman with the perfect opportunity to regain form and confidence. He’s started in perfect fashion.
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