Daniel James aspires to be like Manchester United great Ryan Giggs whose advice, belief and support is helping the Welsh winger live out his dreams.
Just 17 months after making his senior debut for Swansea, the 21-year-old’s remarkable rise shows no sign of abating – despite some notable knocks along the way.
Seeing a move to Leeds collapse at the start of the year was one such setback, yet it meant James would instead become Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s first signing as United manager in a deal that could reach around £18million.
The winger has also become a Wales international during that time and could scarcely ask for a better mentor than international manager Giggs, who knows a thing or two about succeeding at Old Trafford.
“Giggsy, as soon as I came into the Wales set up, had ambitions for me,” James said.
“The way he brought me and a lot of other youngsters through has been amazing.
“He spoke to me when I first signed for United. His advice was to be myself, which is what I will try to do.
“He wasn’t a bad player was he? What he did at Manchester United was amazing. Every young winger looks up to a person like him.
“He was playing in the Premier League until he was 40 and he was still beating players. Credit to him, the way he looks after his body.
“It is amazing for me, when I go away on internationals, to learn from people like him. He is obviously someone I aspire to be like.”
Making anywhere near the impact of Giggs will be difficult, but James has made a good start to life at United on and off the pitch.
The 21-year-old has impressed in pre-season training and spent more time than any of his team-mates signing autographs and posing for selfies on Thursday when 12,000 fans descended on the WACA for training.
Two days on and 50,206 were in attendance as James made his first appearance for the club in a 2-0 win against Perth Glory at the mammoth Optus Stadium, where he was the standout performer in the first half.
“Walking out there, with the amount of fans that have come from everywhere is surreal, really,” James said. “Playing with those players is a dream come true.
“I don’t think it (signing all those autographs on Thursday) will ever sink in, really.
“Walking out at Old Trafford is the big one. That is when it will probably sink in.
“But the amount of fans that came to training shows the support this club has got. The amount of fans that turned up tonight from all over is just amazing.”
James has barely stopped grinning since joining the group – quite the contrast to the negativity that surrounds the club following a poor season and a lack of summer activity.
Asked if that negativity had played on his mind before deciding to join, James said: “Not at all. When a club like Manchester United come calling you can’t say no.
“As soon as they did there was no thought in my mind not to be here. Today the support was absolutely amazing. I am so glad to be here.”
Instinctive second-half finishes from Marcus Rashford and James Garner saw Manchester United kick-off their pre-season commitments with a comfortable 2-0 win against weakened A-League Grand Finalists Perth Glory.
The England striker produced an expert, first-time effort on the turn upon the hour mark at Optus Stadium in a fixture from which summer buys Daniel James and Aaron Wan-Bissaka debuted, plus two separate XIs took to the field Down Under. England Under-18 midfielder Garner would then lash in a thunderous low drive on 85 minutes to complete the predictably one-sided victory.
Glory had provided dogged opposition throughout, utilising an entrenched five-man defence to cover the absences of several key players such as ex-Republic of Ireland forward Andy Keogh.
Here, Sport360 picks out two Red Devils performers who excelled and two whose displays will provide manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer with food for thought:
Ignore the paltry opposition, multiple half-time changes or nascent stage of pre-season this fixture came in.
For the opening 45 minutes, James offered United something they have lacked for much of the last decade – unalloyed pace.
The £15 million pick-up from the Championship’s Swansea City was a constant outlet, plus an invaluable out-ball over the top against a packed rearguard. A succession of low crosses were pumped in by him from either flank, the best being blazed over by fellow speedster Diogo Dalot.
Abundant promise that he must now deliver on.
Much is being staked on Rashford’s proficiency in front of goal by United striking great Solskjaer.
With Belgium centre forward Romelu Lukaku watching on from the stands, amid a reputed minor injury concern and transfer talks with Inter Milan, the 21-year-old made a small delivery on his manager’s faith. His swivel from wantaway midfielder Paul Pogba’s deflected flick and sweet low strike must be repeat when the competitive action begins.
It is a symptom of United’s dysfunction that the errant Argentina defender remains on the payroll.
The 29-year-old was a man on a mission at the Optus – but this individual streak was not a positive. He fired in a ridiculous long-range shot from distance, regularly charged out of the backline and had to be covered by the diligent Chris Smalling.
The sooner he is gone, the better.
The Netherlands youth international put in a perfectly adequate display, even coming close to winning a first-half penalty after a driving run into the box.
His display, however, did not hold a favourable comparison to those put in by fellow starlets Angel Gomes, 18, and Mason Greenwood, 17, after the break. The diminutive former-mentioned looked to have taken a development leap, while the incessant Greenwood oozed danger and nearly shattered the far post with a fierce low shot.
These kids will get chances to shadow the wide areas in Solskjaer’s 4-3-3/4-2-3-1 set-up. Chong, 19, might not get many more opportunities to impress.
New boy Daniel James started as Manchester United’s pre-season tour got under way – but Romelu Lukaku and Victor Lindelof were among those conspicuous by their absence against Perth Glory.
The Wales flyer was named in Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side, but fellow summer signing Aaron Wan-Bissaka had to settled for a place on the bench.
Wantaway midfielder Paul Pogba was on the bench, but there was no place for Lukaku, Lindelof, Eric Bailly and Lee Grant despite all being on the coach to Optus Stadium.
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