It’s easy to get caught up in an unfair narrative about a football player given how quickly slander is able to spread on social media sites. Twitter, in particular, has a habit of perpetuating these falsehoods through accounts that are dedicated to so-called football humour. Jokes about players can go viral even if they’re based on a moment from a match that is taken completely out of context. It’s often quite hard to expect anyone to be remotely reasonable about the player in question once this happens.
In Daniel James’ case, you just hope that the winger doesn’t ever type his name into the Twitter search bar and read through the opinions that will then present themselves. Extraordinarily, even when he’s not playing, James seems to come in for a torrent of criticism. Man United’s exit from the Champions League in early December was a prime example of this.
Indeed, after losses to Red Bull Leipzig and PSG, one of Europe’s best teams and at just 3/1 in Champions League betting to win the tournament, he was still the player United fans chose to castigate. This was despite the fact that he had not played even one minute of any of the games. It really is a case of damned if you do and damned if you don’t for James as the United fans use the club’s poor transfer market policy as the stick to beat the young winger with, whether he’s on the field or not.
I’m very proud to join the biggest football club in the world. This is a new and exciting chapter in my life and I can’t wait to get started. Thank you to everyone who has shown faith in me. Hard work starts now! 🔴⚪⚫ @ManUtd #MUFC pic.twitter.com/SRHdNpvLLI— Daniel James (@Daniel_James_97) June 12, 2019
Let’s put the noise from social media to one side for a minute. Is there is reason to believe that James is as bad as the majority of the fanbase make him out to be, or is this a player who is genuinely out of his depth at Manchester United? The winger’s performances for Wales seem to indicate that he is able to contribute on a regular basis, but what do the speedster’s stats say about his time at United?
As it happens, James’ numbers over the last 24 months tell an intriguing story since he signed from Swansea.
In his first season in the Premier League with Manchester United, James managed to rack up 33 appearances whilst in his second, the Welsh international has only recorded 14. There are still five games to go this season, but it seems unlikely that the winger will even register half of the number of appearances he notched up during the 2019/2020 season. This suggests that it’s not only the keyboard warriors who have lost faith in the winger but so too has his manager.
Now, it was only in February 2021 that Ole Gunnar Solskjær was praising James for not disappearing during a tough winter after he scored against Newcastle during a home win at Old Trafford. But since then, James hasn’t found the back of the net or recorded an assist.
With the summer transfer window rapidly approaching, James can ill-afford to go cold now as his future at Old Trafford hangs in the balance. Although the die may have already been cast with the Manchester United hierarchy intent on moving the 23-year-old on in the summer.