Daniel James has now played 34 matches for Manchester United, scored three goals and registered seven assists.
The fact that his exquisite through ball for Bruno Fernandes that led to the Red Devils’ penalty against Watford yesterday does not count as an assist is a good example of how statistics do not always tell the whole story.
But after a blistering start to his United career – those three goals having come in the first four games – James has become something of a ‘Marmite’™ player, with many fans declaring him not good enough and others seeing him as an exciting prospect bursting with talent.
After the Watford match and that classy through ball, manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer praised the Welshman’s performance.
‘He’s had a break now and we want him on the touchline; taking people on, running in behind, mixing up his football and today was Dan, more or less, at his best.’
The MEN’s Samuel Luckhurst agreed. ‘Daniel James having his best game since the December derby. Kept going and played a key role in both goals’ he tweeted during the match.
Many fans took to social media to sing James’ praises.
Daniel James was brought in to be a player that could make a impact off the bench and for 15m he’s overachieved in his debut season. He’s our top assister in the league with 6 assists and has the same amount of goal contributions as Pepe who cost 72m ? pic.twitter.com/ay9IQyBx0w
— United Zone (@ManUnitedZone_) February 16, 2020
In my opinion, Daniel James has been one of our best performers today. #mufc
— Oscar. ?? (@_UnitedOscar) February 23, 2020
Well played Danny boy! Just need the finished product and you're right up there. Keep working hard!
— Jack Jenkins (@JackJ_1878) February 24, 2020
But then there is the other side of the coin.
Back to the statistics first. Sofascore.com reveals that the 22-year-old lost possession a whopping 17 times against Watford. He also only won three of 11 ground duels, did not even attempt a long ball and perhaps most worryingly of all, attempted only two crosses, neither of which was accurate.
Pretty damning numbers for a well-rested flying winger playing at home against a bottom of the table side.
And standing behind these statistics are the many fans who are quite convinced that the figures are simply a reflection of the fact that James is a poor player. One simply commented ‘Daniel James is a one trick pony and he’s s—t at that trick.’
People saying Daniel James had a good game yesterday and I just can't understand that with how poor his finishing and crosses were ???
— Faris Al-Junaid (@FarisAlJunaid) February 24, 2020
The form that Daniel James has been showing, he wouldn't start for most of the teams in Prem
— ً (@UtdAidan) February 24, 2020
Daniel James is the most basic footballer you'll ever see. He just wants to kick and run
— RiZzy? (@RiZzyUTD) February 17, 2020
Daniel James is a one trick pony and he’s sh-t at that trick
— Swanny??? (@ftbIswanny) February 23, 2020
The fact of the matter is that James probably lies somewhere between the two extremes. He is electrifyingly fast and he can tear defences apart, especially when they keep a high line. He is young and has a lot of time to develop further. But he is not the most technically gifted player, his passing and crossing is not at the level it should be and he is never going to be a prolific goalscorer. When a team defends deep against United, James quickly becomes a very blunt weapon.
With a stronger squad next season, the manager may have the luxury of selecting James in circumstances where his skills will have more effect and use him off the bench as an impact substitute against tired legs on other occasions.
Finding that right tactical blend will be key to Marmite™ man becoming a player that every fan is prepared to spread on his or her toast.
With all the recent publicity about whether some of the current squad is good enough to play for Man United, why not remind yourself of some of the worst flops to ever appear at the Theatre of Dreams by doing our quiz below?