Daniel James fits profile of young British player Man United want

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This time last year, Daniel James was so disillusioned with life at Swansea that he considered leaving the Championship club in search of first-team football elsewhere.

The young winger had made his senior debut and scored in an 8-1 win over Notts County in the FA Cup in February, but was sufficiently concerned about his prospects to knock on the door of new manager Graham Potter at the end of last season.

‘I remember going into onto the office and saying I wanted to go on loan,’ recalls James. 

‘I was told I was going to be part of something and obviously you go out of the office thinking, “is that true?” I didn’t think I was going to get much first-team football.’

Twelve months on and James’s career has taken off to such extent that the 21-year-old is celebrating a £17million move to Manchester United on a salary of £67,000 per week.

For James, it has been a meteoric rise from promising Under-23 player to fully-fledged Wales international and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s first signing as United boss.

‘It’s surreal to be part of this massive club,’ he added. ‘As a kid, everyone grows up saying “I want to play for Manchester United” and here I am today. I never thought I would play against them, never mind for them.

‘Playing in the Premier League is going to be a big test for me and it’s one I think I’m ready for.

‘I’ve spoken to him (Solskjaer) since I’ve been here. I think the ambition they’ve got for the club is amazing for the next few years – to get players in who are hungry and ready to work hard.

‘I believe that I’m one of those players. I’m willing to work hard. It’s a challenge I’m looking forward to.’

James fits the profile of the young British player Solskjaer is trying to recruit; one with the kind of searing pace the Norwegian hopes can reignite United’s attack and thrill supporters.

‘I’d say I’m quite a direct player,’ says James. ‘I don’t just like to get the ball into feet and dribble at players, I like to get the ball in behind. I’m quite a pacey player.

‘Being versatile is important in this day and age. It’s important that you play different positions. I’ve played left, right and up top this year and enjoyed all of them. You’ve got more chance of getting in the team.’

The Beverley-born youngster made 38 appearances in his breakthrough season for Swansea, scoring five goals. 

He was also handed his senior international debut for Wales in a friendly against Albania before netting the winner in the Euro 2020 qualifier against Slovakia in March.

‘To get that many games for Swansea and my Wales debut as well is amazing,’ said James. ‘At the start, you’re nervous and worrying about what other people are thinking about you.

‘The gaffer trusted me and told me to just go out and play my game. From then on, I just believed I could play. Every game I got better and learned more.’

It was a recommendation from Wales boss Ryan Giggs that led to United approaching Swansea. The deal was confirmed on Wednesday with James signing a five-year contract with the option for another 12 months.

‘Ryan was obviously a big credit to why I’m here now,’ he said. ‘Obviously he gave that opportunity to me in the Slovakia game, and to score in the first five minutes was amazing for me.

‘Obviously he mentioned me here and I’d give a lot back to him for that.’

James was a spectator when United played Barcelona in the Champions League at Old Trafford in April and never believed he would be joining the club just a couple of months later.

‘The atmosphere was amazing. I never thought I’d be able to actually play on that pitch. Thinking about it now, I can’t wait to get out there.

‘I’m really looking forward to the fixture list coming out. To see the teams I’m going to be playing is surreal for me. I probably never believed I would be playing against these teams.

‘I had a taste of it last year playing in the FA Cup against some of the best players in the world. 

‘That’s where I want to be and it’s a challenge I’m really looking forward to. I want to be part of getting United back to where they want to be.’

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