James reflects on season of 'ups and downs'
Daniel James has admitted to "ups and downs" during his first season at Manchester United while chatting with team-mate Scott McTominay in The Huddle, a new show presented by adidas.
The two friends discussed the campaign so far and their hopes for the future, with James reflecting on the difficulties in making the big step up to Premier League football.
The Wales international started 2019/20 superbly in August, scoring three times and winning our opening Player-of-the-Month award.
Despite impressing since, he was clearly relieved to get on the scoresheet again in our last outing, the 5-0 victory at LASK in the Europa League.
However, as Scotty stressed, it's very much not all about hitting the net, particularly for a winger whose defensive work and pressing has rightly earned much praise, but James went on to explain why he feels it has been a mixed start to life at Old Trafford.
"Obviously, I scored against Chelsea and had a good first month so my expectations went from down there to a lot higher," said James. "You've kind of got to take that yourself really. What do I expect of myself now? I didn't change any of my goals to think I started better than I'd thought. I kept the goals the same. I didn't expect higher of myself but, obviously, you have that good first month and, after that, it died down a bit and I didn't score as many."
McTominay interjected to argue: "It doesn't matter, scoring goals. It's the way you're playing, that's more important and that's what young players don't realise. When you're coming through, you think you're in a rich vein of form and you've got to keep that going and keep those levels. But, as you learn and stuff like that, you begin to notice how you keep playing well, you notice it."
It is easy to forget that this is only James's second full season in senior football after making his mark with Swansea City.
"That was the thing," he responded. "To come in from Swansea to here, as you've said, was a big difference. I expected a big difference but it was a lot bigger than I thought. It's not just about playing well but can you perform at a high level in every game, playing three games a week? I was covering 9-10km at Swansea but now, in most games, it's 11km or more, and a lot of that is obviously at high speed."
McTominay added: "It's a culture change. You have to adapt to your surroundings, it's not just going to be a straight click. In your first month, you're scoring goals and stuff like that, but you're still playing well. You're finding your feet in the Premier League, one of the toughest in the world, so it's not like clockwork or dead easy. It takes time to adapt to different things that are going on in your life as well."
The Wales winger is still only 22 and appreciates he has a long way to go in his career.
"This year has been a massive learning curve," he said. "I obviously hope to finish the end of the season but there's been a lots of ups and downs and this season has really helped me as it's another season where I can come in and try to kick on. Coming from Swansea, to look back a year ago, it was my first season in senior football, to this season, has been another stepping stone for me.
“I think next season is obviously going to be massive for us. We've had injuries, a few of them long-term at different times such as Marcus [Rashford], Paul [Pogba] and yourself. I think once we get them all back together, with the rotation of the squad, we have a great chance of challenging for the title next season."
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