Daniel James flies down the wing at Wolves.

Opinion: All stand up for James!

Wednesday 21 August 2019 11:00

When Ole Gunnar Solskjaer described potential signings this summer, and then Daniel James in particular, the Manchester United manager talked about footballers who can get the supporters off their seats.

The Reds have a long history of exciting wingers with pace and trickery and, while some can argue the position is defunct in some formations, the importance of width in creating dangerous situations remains. Certainly in the 4-2-3-1 formation Ole appears to have been using most often, there is a reliance on attacking players to utilise space down the flanks with Marcus Rashford also always essential in this respect.

United also have an association with the 1989 song 'Sit Down' by Manchester band James, after it was played during the glorious celebrations at the Nou Camp, following the dramatic 2-1 win over Bayern Munich in the Champions League final that clinched the Treble in 1999. Nobody who was there will ever forget David May orchestrating the crowd.

Watch Daniel James's first goal in a United shirt, against Chelsea.

Now, some 30 years since the song was released, and 20 years on from the night in Barcelona the fans still sing about, our goalscoring hero is the club's manager and we have a James in our ranks. And the instruction is the opposite - to stand up when he gets the ball and encourage him to fly past the full-back.

The 21-year-old's top-flight career is only two games old. He made an instant impression at Old Trafford, scoring soon after coming on as a substitute at Chelsea and, in the words of David Beckham no less, celebrating like anybody wearing the red shirt should. It was an emotional moment for the Wales international, who sadly lost his father before arriving here in the summer.

It helped convince Ole to hand James his first start much earlier than many would have anticipated when he joined from Swansea City, as he was largely earmarked as one for the future.

And there appears to have been a slightly mixed response to his performance against Wolves. Although still raw and inexperienced, he showed off his trademark speed and energy and seemed to have the hosts rattled and off guard. As the game wore on, he looked to get down the line and attempt crosses into the box. There was surely plenty of promise in his display and also satisfaction at seeing him track back and regain possession with his high work-rate obvious for all to see.

Things move on quickly and we welcome Crystal Palace to Old Trafford on Saturday, a team with an eye-catching wide man of their own in former Red Wilfried Zaha, another crowd pleaser.

Daniel James worked hard during the 1-1 draw at Molineux.

What I feel is important is the home supporters get behind James, if he features again this weekend, and encourage him to take his man on. It's something the Old Trafford crowd loves and the backing for all the players in the opener with Chelsea was excellent. There is nothing better to get the fans going than a Red winning a one-on-one duel and let us hope it can quickly help spark the Reds into life against a side that could prove difficult to break down.

We have witnessed so many flying wingers over the years - I can see some similarities with the way Lee Sharpe operated when he first moved up from left-back to a more advanced position, using his acceleration to make a huge impact. Andrei Kanchelskis was lightning quick and, going back further, my father has suggested he can see a lot of Steve Coppell in James, in relation to his style and stature.

James is still at the start of his United career, and there needs to be a lot of patience with him, but his ability to get the fans excited should ensure his popularity. 

Older fans have noticed James is similar in style and stature to Steve Coppell.

Maybe, in some respects, he embodies this new Manchester United that Ole is trying to create. Yes, it inevitably has nods and throwbacks to the style used by Sir Alex Ferguson when the Norwegian was at the sharp end of the attack, but there does feel like a freshness to it, even from the evidence of only two games this season.

James appears to possess a real determination to work his socks off and make the most of his opportunity at United, giving his all to help the club succeed. As that is all a majority of supporters probably ask for, I'm really looking forward to being at Old Trafford again on Saturday and seeing if he can build on this positive start, whether he is in the XI or comes off the bench. And maybe he can get me off my seat too - even if it is in the press box!

The opinions in this story are personal to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Manchester United Football Club.

United face Crystal Palace at Old Trafford, with kick-off at 15:00 BST on Saturday. Why not book a Matchday VIP Experience?

Reading this in our app? If not, you might miss some exclusive features not found on ManUtd.com. Download the Official App here.