I really enjoy coming up with ridiculously outlandish theories about Manchester United. Not only do they partially preserve my sanity, which slowly ebbed away last season, they do also amuse me. For instance, I convinced myself that David Moyes’ inclusion of James Wilson in the Manchester United squad for their trip to Newcastle United last April was his way of desperately trying to leave some sort of mark at Manchester United that wasn’t absolutely devastating; I like to believe that this inclusion of the young striker was reminiscent of the way Sir Alex Ferguson named Adnan Januzaj on the substitutes bench for his final game in charge of Manchester United. David Moyes knew that his days were numbered, and therefore made this move in order to frantically leave some sort of legacy at a club where he broke many unwelcome records.
I should restate that this is a theory, and one that is most likely not true. Secondly, it’s incredibly outlandish. It’s possible that Moyes didn’t actually know James Wilson was there amongst the subs. I genuinely wouldn’t dismiss that.
Either way, there’s absolutely no doubting that James Wilson is a genuine prospect. Louis van Gaal apparently rejected ‘a number of offers’ this summer in order to keep James Wilson at the club. Anybody involved with Manchester United’s youth setup won’t hesitate to inform you that James Wilson is head and shoulders above any of his teammates.
This view is clearly mirrored by Louis van Gaal, Danny Welbeck being shown the door and James Wilson staying put is essentially a direct archetype of the notorious ‘philocsshhophy’ being put into practice. Every team coached by Louis van Gaal consists of goal-scoring strikers, strikers who just have that wonderful natural ability to score goals; Jari Litamen during his days with Ajax, Rivaldo during his Barcelona tenure, Thomas Muller during his time at Bayern Munich. I don’t want to place James Wilson in the same bracket as these illustrious names, but the reason Louis van Gaal favors the youngster is due to the fact that Wilson is Louis van Gaal’s ‘type of striker’
Danny Welbeck is blessed with a lot of things; the knack of scoring goals at will isn’t one of them. That very shortcoming is the reason why he is now residing in some tinpot club based in North London. It pains me to say it, but I do understand why James Wilson would have featured more than Danny Welbeck should the two of them had both been at Louis van Gaal’s disposal; in a perfect world they would both stay and Rooney and Hernandez would head elsewhere, but that’s another story altogether.
Anyway, back onto Wilson.
Some people wrongly assume that James Wilson is only placed on a football pitch to poach goals. Although Wilson has a very innate instinct to be in the right place in the right time he does serve more of a purpose than just being a ‘fox in the box’
Namely, the power behind his sprints can be frightening. If you browse a few YouTube clips of Wilson playing at youth level, you’ll witness a lanky looking striker picking up the ball from the midfielders and wreaking absolute havoc with his quick feet and momentum. At times, it really does look like it isn’t very fair to have him on the same pitch as these young defenders desperately trying to learn their trade in football.
Unlike Falcao and van Persie, Wilson favors picking up the ball and doing something with it as opposed to waiting for the perfect through ball by religiously staying level with the last man. Wilson will lose the ball in a game from time to time, but he’ll seem like he’s far more involved. That much was exemplified on his Manchester United debut, where he endeared himself to the world’s football audience by scoring 2 goals at home to Hull last season. His hunger to be a part of every move was a truly fantastic sight; the youngster topped the sprint charts for the first half with 27 sprints, which is a direct connotation of what he can bring to a team.
Against Everton, where he was brought on during the latter stages of the game, he dropped back when needed and was part of some very neat sequences of play. When Manchester United are on the back foot, like they were for the last 10 minutes on Sunday, a player of Wilson’s attributes can be invaluable; excellent energy, works back when required, contributes to pieces of a play, subsequently alleviating pressure and on top of all that, he still provides a real goal threat. Expect more late cameos from Wilson as this season progresses.
On top of that, you could wholeheartedly say that he is a two-footed player. If you are going to make it at Manchester United, or at any professional club then that attribute is more or less paramount, which is why the fact that Antonio Valencia has 131 Manchester United caps is quite implausible. To accommodate his ability to use both of his feet he is quite the technician with the ball; his composure and decision making when he has the ball somewhat negates the fact that he’s only 18.
In other words, he has a lot going for him. There are downsides to his game, however:
Lack of physicality is a problem. It’s not something that’s unsolvable and it’s certainly not something that is rare amongst 18-year-old strikers. Many good players today, take Gareth Bale, who started out at a big club being critiqued for his lack of firmness. After several years of development Bale was one of the fiercest players in Europe. What I’m trying to put across is that muscle can be drummed into someone, but it does come at a cost; if Wilson is put on a severe strengthening programme then his searing acceleration and ballerina-esque balance could be compromised. On reflection, Bale isn’t a very good example. This is because he’s been bulked up to a ridiculous extent and his acceleration and balance has significantly improved. He’s a moderate freak of nature.
Wilsons’ proneness to injury is probably his largest problem. In 2012 he broke his ankle against Southampton and has been suffering from minor niggles ever since, which has hampered his development. If someone suffers injuries at youth level, the Premier League’s tenacity will most likely result in more serious and frequent knocks occurring.
When the 3 main Manchester United strikers are firing like they are, its unlikely that Louis van Gaal will need the services of James Wilson too often this season. Wilson will undoubtedly be part of the first team a lot more often this term under Louis van Gaal due to his well-publicized eagerness to incorporate youth players into his squad. You may not see a great deal of James Wilson on your TV’s this season, but his development will be massive in the next 8 months or so as he supplements and studies the strengths and attributes of Falcao, Rooney and Van Persie, three of the world’s most potent strikers. It’s definitely a very good time to be a young striker at Manchester United.
With that said, acknowledge this; Falcao turns 29 next February (and is only on loan), Rooney also turns 29 in a few weeks and Van Persie has recently turned 31. Although they are currently very powerful and useful it’s unlikely they’ll be adorning the Old Trafford turf in 5 years time. If he chooses to feed off the experience that those 3 strikers have to offer (and lets be honest, who wouldn’t?) then once the legs of Rooney, Van Persie and Falcao call time James Wilson could be Manchester United’s first choice striking option.