Mon. Nov 30th, 2020

Man Utd

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Manchester United have been reminded how to use their wildcard

3 min read

The biggest compliment Manchester United can be paid after their weekend win over Newcastle is that choosing a man of the match was so difficult.

Juan Mata looked effortless in midfield, Bruno Fernandes controlled the game, Marcus Rashford shone while out of position and David de Gea made crucial saves to ensure his side avoided another early season upset.

Elsewhere there were encouraging performances from Aaron Wan-Bissaka, club captain Harry Maguire and Scott McTominay. However, it might be the rejuvenated display from Daniel James which pleased manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer the most.

The Welsh winger endured an average international break with Ryan Giggs and looked low on confidence after an illness which led him to miss a few games early in the season.

His form had dipped not only under the pressure of regularly starting for United in only his second season of professional football, but being played out of position with the club still looking to sign a proven right-wing option.

Rashford’s political stance makes for a better right winger than James, but on the left is where the duo both come into their own as Saturday night’s showing proved.

“Dan’s strength is his incredible speed,” Solskjaer said after the win over Newcastle. “I thought he showed productivity and trusted himself. We work with all the players and tell them to express themselves and show what they’ve got.

“Juan and Bruno [Fernandes] were in the pockets and Dan and Marcus were working hard to run in behind them and be positive.

”All of them did fantastic but I’m very pleased for Dan. It was a very good performance.”

The weekend win at St James’ Park demonstrated the manager’s belief as the Welsh forward showed rare glimpses of his former self with more damaging runs and rejuvenated confidence against a robust Newcastle defence.

James still made the mistake of running into needless blind alleys but it was largely a fruitful display which showcased a wicked turn of pace and perpetual energy that constantly left Newcastle wary and on the back foot.

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United’s dilemma with James is that not only his role limited to that of a left-winger or a central option in a two-pronged attack, but that his best football tends to come when he is introduced as a pair of fresh legs from the bench.

His immediate impact as a substitute last season offered him far much more playing time than he could have ever imagined, yet while current manager Solskjaer was made to work for his minutes from the bench as a player, the same wasn’t applied to James.

A common quirk with super subs is that their remarkable impact often sees them gain starts off the back of it, a boost for confidence, but not necessarily a situation which aides their playing strengths.

Even at his best James is still raw as a player and while he shone from the start against Newcastle it is from the bench where he plays his best. The 22-year-old excels when he has had chance to study a defensive set-up from the sidelines and methodically consider his plan of attack to prey on vulnerable, tiring full-backs.

The weekend performance was one which can only be seen as a positive for United fans and regardless of personal agendas a confident James can only be a good thing ahead of a packed fixture schedule.

James has already proven himself worthy of the United shirt but after one promising display Solskjaer can’t make the mistake of throwing him into the deep end when he has only just started treading water again.

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