The MEN can reveal the Leeds chief executive Angus Kinnear attended United’s Carabao Cup win at Luton, where James was an unused substitute. Even though Kinnear is a boyhood Luton fan, he had to obtain a scout’s pass to attend the game and met James, 22, when his move to Leeds collapsed on deadline day in January 2019.
James’ failed move was filmed by Amazon for the documentary series Leeds United: Take Us Home and Kinnear gave an interview praising the Welshman, recommended by coach Marcelo Bielsa and the Leeds director of football Victor Orta.
Amazon captured James undergoing a medical, posing with a Leeds shirt and signing a contract at the club’s Thorpe Arch training ground, but Swansea pulled the plug on the £7million deal and Kinnear lamented that Swansea chairman Huw Jenkins was not returning his calls. United signed James five months later for £15m rising to £18m.
James is expected to resist a loan move as he is usually in line to replace any of United’s first choice front three of Mason Greenwood, Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial should they succumb to injury or be suspended.
The Wales international started 35 times for United last season and only seven players lined up more often but United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer completely dropped James from a Premier League squad for the first time against Brighton on Saturday.
Solskjaer also omitted striker Odion Ighalo and playmaker Juan Mata as Jesse Lingard was restored to a league squad after missing out for United’s opening defeat to Crystal Palace.
James has endured a poor calendar year and lost his place to Greenwood shortly after the Premier League restarted in June. He started against Palace but James was substituted at half-time. James still travelled to Brighton, where he was cut from the matchday 18.
Brighton manager Graham Potter coached James at Swansea and attempted to sign him last year but James had already agreed terms with United. There is no indication Brighton will compete with Leeds for James.