Opinion: Dangerous Dan shines in Watford win
There’s been plenty of praise for three of Manchester United’s attacking quartet after Sunday’s 3-0 Premier League win over Watford.
Bruno Fernandes scored his first goal for the Reds, with Anthony Martial and Mason Greenwood adding their own stunning efforts to seal the game in the second half.
But Daniel James’s contribution shouldn’t go unnoticed.
The Wales winger produced arguably his best individual display of 2020 so far, troubling Watford right-back Craig Dawson with his direct runs and perhaps being unlucky not to register on the scoresheet himself, with his shot in the 65th minute flying just wide of Ben Foster’s goal.
James also cut in from the left – after spending much of the campaign on the opposite flank – to provide good chances for Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Fred in the first half, as well as playing the measured through-ball which Fernandes latched on to before being brought down for his spot-kick.
The benefits of the winter break have been much discussed in recent weeks, and the 16-day hiatus the Reds enjoyed between the Wolves and Chelsea games appears to have particularly refreshed the 22-year-old, who recorded more sprints (18) and shots (four) than any other United player, according to Opta data.
Sunday’s performance was reminiscent of Dan’s irresistible August.
The summer signing from Swansea City experienced an exhilarating start to life at Old Trafford, netting three goals in his first four appearances.
As the campaign progressed, he provided memorable assists for Marcus Rashford for his goals against Liverpool, Norwich City and Sheffield United, as well as setting up Martial and Greenwood for their efforts versus Manchester City and Everton respectively.
James’s output diminished slightly after the festive period, but perhaps that’s no great surprise for such a young and inexperienced player.
Prior to his big move, the Hull-born speedster had made just 39 senior appearances at club level, a total he’s only five games away from matching this season, against higher calibre levels of opposition, at home and in Europe.
With the Reds playing a game every three days for much of December and January, and James involved in all bar a handful, it’s no wonder tiredness started to creep in, something the wide man admitted during our recent trip to Marbella.
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“Obviously, these warm-weather camps always help and always benefit us when we get back home,” James told us.
“I think it is good to get out here. It is obviously a little bit warmer than it is at home. It is good to get here and get the last few weeks out of our legs, which will really benefit us when we go back.”
After a quiet game as one of two ‘split strikers’ at Stamford Bridge last week, James was an unused substitute in Belgium for our Europa League clash with Club Brugge.
That meant the 73,347 people packed into Old Trafford got to see Daniel replicate his dangerous early-season form, for which he later received praise from his manager.
“Yeah, he’s had a couple of games where he’s not played,” Ole Gunnar Solskjaer told MUTV’s Stewart Gardner after the final whistle at Old Trafford.
“He’s had a break now and we want him on the touchline taking people on, running in behind, mixing up his football and today was Dan, more or less, at his best.”
With key games to come in three competitions, let's hope that the 22-year-old can continue to be a menace to opposition defences, whether on the right, left or in a more advanced position.
The opinions expressed in this article are personal to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Manchester United. This article first appeared in the Official App.