Oli McBurnie and Daniel James celebrate a goal for Swansea City.

Footballers don't come much hungrier than James

Friday 14 June 2019 09:28

Oli McBurnie was Daniel James's room-mate at Swansea City and believes his pal is exactly the sort of hungry youngster Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is targeting for his new-look Manchester United.

The Scotland international striker has good connections at United after helping the club win the 2013 Milk Cup. Impressing as the spearhead of a side containing the likes of Andreas Pereira and Marcus Rashford, he was top scorer in the tournament after being borrowed from Bradford City.

Under Graham Potter's stewardship, the 23-year-old thrived in an attacking line-up with James last term, and has no doubt his friend has the ability and character required to develop into a major star at Old Trafford as he fits the bill for Ole as a promising player eager to make his mark at Old Trafford.

"DJ actually rang me the other day when I was sat on a plane and said: ‘I can’t believe it, Oli, I couldn’t get a game [on loan] at Shrewsbury last season and now I’m at Man United. I can’t believe the mad way football works’," McBurnie told ManUtd.com.

"He thoroughly deserves everything he gets. I can’t wait to see him do it on the biggest stage and show what he can do. We’ve been room-mates for the last two years. It’s funny as we were room-mates in the Under-23s and then I went up to the first team in the first season and, when he followed me, we started going away and became room-mates again.

"He’s a great kid, like a little big kid, but so professional and so mature for his age in terms of being a footballer. He knows exactly what he wants and how to get there. The way he’s developed and improved over the last six months has been unbelievable. You don’t have teams like Manchester United after you if you’re not a top, top player.

"Everyone knows about his speed - he’s easily the quickest player I’ve ever played with - but all the other parts of his game have improved so much in the last six months, since he’s been introduced to first-team football. He’s been playing against experienced full-backs in the Championship and making them look like little kids."

James has the sort of personality and enthusiasm that should endear him to the United faithful and is capable of operating in a number of attacking positions.

"I don’t think many are hungrier than DJ," explained McBurnie. "He’s got such inner self-confidence and belief in himself. He just wants to get as high as possible and go as far as he can. When he was in the first team at Swansea, he played a couple of games but the gaffer pulled him out and he was kind of like asking why.

"The gaffer said ‘I just want to protect you’ but he was saying: ‘No, I just want to play as much as I can and want to keep going’. He is hungry to play on the biggest stage and that's why United are the perfect club to go to – one of the biggest clubs in the world.

"He was asking me what United is like and a lot of things as I know some of the boys there and I am still in contact with them. He was asking me what I thought but his mind was already made up – 100 per cent he wanted to go there. The advice I gave him, anyway, was 'United? You can never turn down that club. Go there and make yourself a superstar'. That is what he’s got to do and I’m sure United fans will see what he’s all about. He’s electric and the sort of boy who gets fans on their feet and a player all fans want to go to watch.

Welcome to United, Daniel James Video

Welcome to United, Daniel James

Welcome to the United family, Daniel James...

"He played a lot on the left but played on the right as well and up front at times. He’s by far the quickest player I’ve played with, with his press and his one-versus-one abilities, getting in behind. He’s a nightmare for defenders to try to pick up. He can come for it into feet and run at you and, if you get too tight, he can run in behind. With the right passes played in behind, he’s gone and there is no catching him. He’s been working a lot on his final product – his end ball and finishing, which has come on a lot in the past six months. The more he plays, with better coaching and quality of players to play with, he will only go from strength to strength." 

The fact the Reds have looked to the lower divisions for a new recruit is generally being viewed as a real positive, with so much talent available within the EFL. It should give more encouragement to others in the division who are hoping to attract interest from the biggest clubs in the country.

"It's brilliant - 100 per cent," added McBurnie. "I think it just shows the talent, young British talent, we have at the minute. Clubs don’t always need to go abroad. I know Ryan Giggs had an influence in the transfer with United but it's great for young players coming up and seeing United looking at younger talent. I also think it’s a perfect route for United to go down.

"It’s been a tough season or two for them but the way Ole apparently wants to go, like you’ve said, with young, hungry players to go there, who really want to play for United is exactly what they’re getting with DJ. I think it’s a perfect route for them to go down.

Oli McBurnie is excited by the prospect of seeing Daniel James in a United shirt.

"He is the sort of boy who will just feed off the pressure," the striker added. "He knows the expectation of playing at a club like United and that is exactly what he needs. He is the type of guy who, when the fans get off their feet for him, he will just feed off it and buzz off it even more as it’ll give him another little extra boost. I can’t wait to see what he does. I’m excited for him, like I say, to show people what he’s about and prove everybody right."

Fans could get a first opportunity to watch James play for the Reds in our tour opener against Perth Glory. Visit manutd.com/tour for more details on tickets and live MUTV coverage.

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