Daniel James is on the cusp of completing a dream move to Manchester United after the Red Devils agreed an £18 million fee with Swansea City.
When finalised, James will become the first signing of what needs to be a transformative summer for the struggling Old Trafford outfit, who endured a nightmare 2018/19 campaign.
It’s abundantly clear a flurry of signings are needed, while a clear-out of dead wood is also required. But, more than anything, a change in tact in terms of transfer strategy and a refocus on club traditions are vital as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer looks to return the sleeping giants to relevance next term.
The exciting 21-year-old will become the 45th Welshman to pull on the famous red jersey. And, as you can see from our list of previous Dragons to represent the club, plenty have scorched a path to success at Old Trafford.
United legend, enough said. If James can make a fraction of the impact his current national team boss did at United, he’ll be thrilled. The honour of most appearances by any United player ever goes to Giggs, who fittingly broke Sir Bobby Charlton’s record when appearing as a substitute as United beat Chelsea on penalties to win their third European Cup in the Moscow drizzle in May, 2008.
Giggs’ 963 club appearances is now 205 more than Charlton and will take some beating, as will his phenomenal haul of trophies. Of the club’s 20 top-flight domestic league titles, Giggs has lifted 13, as well as four FA Cups, three League Cups and two Champions League crowns – he won a total of 34 overall team awards during a glittering 24-year one-club career, making him one of the most decorated footballers in history.
He bagged 168 goals for the club at a strike rate of 0.17 goals per game and holds a slew of personal records, including being the player with the most assists in Premier League history (271). He netted 12 goals in 66 Wales caps.
The ninth highest scorer in United’s history, Hughes scored only five less than Giggs during two glorious spells at Old Trafford. He popped off for a two-season stint with behemoths Barcelona and Bayern Munich before returning to United in 1988, becoming an integral part of the early dominance under Sir Alex Ferguson during the 90s.
A tenacious striker with a tremendous work ethic as well as a knack for scoring stupendous and important goals, the Wrexham-born wrecking ball found the net 163 times during 467 outings.
In his first season back Hughes won the PFA Player of the Year, the first United player to earn the accolade. He went on to score both goals in the 1991 Cup Winners’ Cup final against Barcelona in Rotterdam, a result that sparked the Ferguson era into life.
He scored in the 1994 FA Cup final – a third title, and also won two league titles as well as one League Cup.
A scorer of 16 goals in 72 Wales caps, Hughes was one of three high-profile players to depart Old Trafford in the summer of 1995 – alongside Andrei Kanchelskis and Paul Ince – leaving for Chelsea as Ferguson ushered in the Class of 92.
Nowhere near as famous or flamboyant as his two more illustrious compatriots, but Giggs, Hughes, Billy Meredith and Ray Bennion are the only four Welshmen to play more games for the Red Devils than Blackmore’s 245.
The tough-tackling attacking full-back was ahead of his time in terms of what is required of the modern full-back. His forays forward down the left flank were a feature of his decade-long stint at the club from 1984-94 and he was renowned for his fierce long-range striking ability as well being an adept set-piece taker, comfortable on either foot.
He scored 26 goals in his Reds career – a ratio of a goal roughly around every nine games. Not too shabby. He was part of the side that ended a 26-year top-flight title drought as United won the inaugural Premier League crown in 1992/93, and also won one FA Cup and the 1991 European Cup Winners’ Cup. Left United at 30 but continued to play lower league football until retiring, aged 46, in 2010.
United’s third highest appearance making Welshman, running out a total of 335 times in the red of the Red Devils. Chirk-born Meredith was considered one of the early superstars of football and enjoyed a decorated career.
A livewire forward known for his dribbling, passing, crossing and shooting, Meredith notched 36 goals for United.
He was part of United’s maiden English top-flight title-winning squad in 1907/08, while he helped the club lift the first of 12 FA Cups the following year.
He had two stints at rivals Manchester City at the beginning and end of his career, also captaining the side from the blue half of Manchester to their 1904 FA Cup win (City’s first major trophy).
He moved to United in 1907 following a ban for bribery and spent 15 years at Old Trafford though he missed four seasons due to World War I.
He returned to City in 1921, aged 47, making him the oldest ever player for City, United and Wales – for whom he won 48 caps.
He helped to set up the Players’ Union, which was a fore-runner of the Professional Footballers’ Association.
Perhaps known as much for an 18-month stint in prison during the early 1990’s for his part in a counterfeit currency scam, Thomas was a tricky, jet-heeled winger when he was snapped up by United from Wrexham in the summer of 1978.
He shone brightly but all too briefly in the spotlight, scoring 15 goals in 110 appearances over three seasons at United, with whom he was a 1979 FA Cup runner-up.
But the shy boy from the small north Wales village of Mochdre struggled to cope with his new-found fame and left for Everton in 1981. He also featured for Chelsea and Brighton before returning to boyhood club Wrexham in 1991, where, aged 37, he famously scored a stunning free-kick in a shock January 1992 2-1 FA Cup defeat of Arsenal – one of the competition’s most famous ever results.
Another man who made his name at Wales’ third-most famous club, forward Bamford remains Wrexham’s all-time top league scorer with 174, as well as most goals in a season (44) and most hat-tricks (16).
He swapped the Red Dragons for the Red Devils in 1934 where he added a respectable 57 goals in 109 appearances in the more famous red shirt. That included a 14-goal haul in 23 games during the 1937/38 campaign as United won the Football League Second Division title. He left for Swansea after four seasons, but the outbreak of World War II halted and ultimately ended his career.
United have confirmed a deal has been agreed “in principle” with both Swansea and the 21-year-old Wales international.
Press Association Sport understands United will pay Swansea £18million, including add-ons, for the Wales international, with the move expected to be formally completed on Tuesday.
“Manchester United is delighted to announce that it has agreed, in principle, terms with both Swansea and Daniel James for his transfer to the club,” a statement on the Premier League side’s official website read.
“Daniel has successfully completed a medical at the Aon Training Complex. Further details will be communicated once the international transfer window opens next week.”
Swansea also announced on their official website that all parties had reached agreement, adding: “The transfer is expected to be completed when FIFA’s international transfer window opens from June 11.”
James interrupted his preparations with Wales for their upcoming Euro 2020 qualifiers against Croatia and Hungary to undergo a medical at United’s Carrington training ground on Thursday.
A host of Premier League clubs had been linked with James, who thrived in his breakthrough season under former Swans boss Graham Potter, who left the club last month to become Brighton’s manager.
James had been close to joining Leeds in January before the move collapsed at the 11th hour.
He progressed through Swansea’s academy after joining from Hull in 2016 and scored five goals in 38 appearances in all competitions last season.
James made his senior debut for Wales in their friendly defeat in Albania last November and struck the winner when Ryan Giggs’ side beat Slovakia 1-0 in their opening Euro 2020 qualifier in March.
Following the death of his father, he withdrew from Wales’ training camp in the Algarve last month, but made himself available for Giggs’ squad for the Euro 2020 qualifiers in Croatia on Saturday and in Hungary next Tuesday.
His arrival at Old Trafford is expected to be the first of several this summer as Solskjaer overhauls his squad in a bid to challenge for major honours.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer wound back the years as the Manchester United manager came off the bench to score for Sir Alex Ferguson’s side against Bayern Munich in the Treble Reunion match.
Fans young and old descended on Old Trafford on Sunday afternoon to see some of the club’s greatest players 20 years to the day since sealing Champions League glory in such spectacular fashion at the Nou Camp.
Solskjaer again started on the bench but made an impact far quicker than that night in Barcelona, where his goal deep in stoppage time sealed a 2-1 victory and the treble on May 26, 1999.
This time he came on for Andy Cole shortly after kick-off and produced a smart finish inside four minutes to put United Legends on course for a comprehensive win.
Dwight Yorke gave Ferguson’s side a two-goal cushion at the break, before man-of-the-match Nicky Butt, substitute Louis Saha and returning favourite David Beckham completed a 5-0 rout.
It was a memorable afternoon played out in front of 61,175 fans at Old Trafford, raising £1.5million for the Manchester United Foundation in the process.
“It was great fun,” Solskjaer said. “You know, just to see the lads in the dressing room before and after, getting the banter going, was fantastic. This is a group of people who have meant so much to each other.
“I think everyone enjoyed it, of course, when you win the game. It was still competitive, we needed to win it and you could see a few tackles flying in.
“I think everyone was happy towards the end and to see everyone enjoying themselves is what this club is all about – playing football in front of unbelievable and amazing fans.”
After a difficult season, Sunday’s match brought a welcome feel-good factor back to Old Trafford.
With the teams led out by Ferguson, supporters were treated to the familiar sight of Beckham firing cross-field balls, Jaap Stam showing no mercy at the back and Paul Scholes bossing the midfield.
Solskjaer only played a small part in the match, but the fans were still singing his name at the end as the United boss looks to turn things around with the current crop.
“I’ve got to thank the supporters again for supporting us and the money will be well spent,” Solskjaer told MUTV. ” I think everyone knows how much it means to play for Manchester United and this match, for everyone, means so much more than just turning up because it was such a big part of our lives.
“We have a big job getting back to these moments. We want to have moments to celebrate and that’s what we’re trying to do.”
Provided by Press Association Sport