Daniel James claims he meant to play the ball into the path of Bruno Fernandes for Manchester United’s second goal in their Europa League romp against Real Sociedad.
Fernandes scored United’s first two goals of the tie, the second confirmed after he’d initially been flagged offside after sweeping in a first-time shot from James’ lay-off.
Speaking after the game Fernandes said he thought the assist stemmed from a poor first touch by James, but the Wales winger confirmed it was intentional and said he always knew the goal would be given after a VAR check.
“I always knew I was onside, when I heard it was Bruno being checked I knew he was behind me so I knew it was going to be a goal. I was just thinking about the assist, I meant to touch it to him,” he told MUTV.
James rounded off the scoring after Marcus Rashford had netted the third to put United in control of the last-32 tie ahead of next week’s second leg at Old Trafford.
The 23-year-old scored late on after breaking clear, but he’d missed a good chance just before that, with Fernandes frustrated he didn’t get the assist on this occasion.
“I think Bruno was annoyed with me that I didn’t get him an assist at the end but it was nice to go through and score,” said James. “I want to do the best I can when I’m on the pitch, I was frustrated that the chance I got from Bruno I didn’t finish so I wanted to take the next one.”
James was making his first United start since the FA Cup win over Watford on January 9 but he now has four goals for the club this season and while competition for places in attack has increased, he is relishing being part of the options available to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
“It’s great to have everyone fit, I know Edinson [Cavani] isn’t here, it’s wonderful to play with all these players, everyone has a different style but we all work well together,” he said.
James’ approach is based on pace and directness and as United looked to exploit a high line once again he was the player called on.
“It was a great result for us, we knew it was going to be difficult and they’d have a lot of the ball but we knew there’d be big spaces behind them and that’s what we had to capitalize on,” he said.
“At times it can be frustrating if they have the ball for a bit, we knew as soon as we won it back we had to go forward, they play a very high line and we had to exploit that. First half we were a bit annoyed we didn’t score more but we came out in the second half and capitalised a bit more.”