Defeats against City and Liverpool underscore the importance of Dan James

For all the talent Ole Gunnar Solskjær possesses in Manchester United’s attacking area, he could have wished he still had Dan James to call on.

During his two full seasons at Old Trafford, the Wales winger became one of Solskjær’s trusted players in the big games.

With the task of tracing back and following people like Liverpool, Manchester City and Chelsea’s looting backs, James was willing to put in a switch for his team.

He may not have the same technical ability that Marcus Rashford, Mason Greenwood, Anthony Martial and Jadon Sancho possess in the wide areas, but James outshines them all when it comes to work speed.

(Photo by Ash Donelon / Manchester United via Getty Images)

If James had not moved to Leeds for £ 25m.BBC Sport), after Cristiano Ronaldo’s return, there could have been any chance that he lined up with United’s number seven, for the showdowns against City and Liverpool.

United have an overwhelming array of forward-looking options, but none of them seem willing to sacrifice their own personal battle-winning credentials to make the team harder to break down and beat.

In 13 games for Manchester United against Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester City, James won seven and lost only three times.

In those 13 games, the former Swansea City man scored a goal and made three assists.

Manchester United vs. Liverpool FC - Premier League
(Photo by Simon Stacpoole / Offside / Offside via Getty Images)

In some of these matches, he was used as another striker, and it was his devastating pace on the counter-attack that worried the teams.

But he also pushed from the front, delivering a stubborn defensive performance, often assisting Luke Shaw or Aaron Wan-Bissaka in the wide areas.

United do not necessarily miss his invention or creativity, but he was the type of team player that the current United team seems to lack a lot.

Solskjær could trust James to do a certain job, and it is these tasks that this current United side seem unable to perform.

Manchester City vs. Manchester United - Premier League
(Photo by John Peters / Manchester United via Getty Images)

But the 23-year-old was moved on from United and Edinson Cavani quickly took his number 21 jersey when Ronaldo returned.

James could never have been left to just play a few games this season, but his record against the top team highlights the significant contribution he made when Solskjær’s team was built to counter-attack.

At present, we have no identity or style, and Solskjær’s task is instead to try to fit as many big names into the team as possible.

Dan James plays regularly under Marcelo Bielsa since moving to Elland Road, though with typically low production on the pitch.

But in the recent disciplinary defeats to both Liverpool and Manchester City, the winger’s stock at the Theater of Dreams has undoubtedly improved, and it is only now that we realize how important he was in the big games.

The fee of 25 million pounds was too good for United to reject, it is quite unequivocal, but his exit removed a player who fit well with Solskjær’s system.

Despite the rich selection of talents available, Solskjær struggles to find a player who fits his way of playing, just as James did.

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