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Manchester United Seeking To Replace Marial With Swansea's Daniel James?

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is reportedly closing in on his first signing as Manchester United manager and it is an intriguing one with Swansea City winger Daniel James tipped to be making the move to Old Trafford.

According to Sky Sports, the two clubs are close to agreeing a £15m deal for the 21-year-old who has enjoyed a breakthrough season in the Championship, scoring four goals and providing seven assists for the Swans.
If United manage to get the deal sewn up it could represent an interesting change in direction on the transfer front as the club have been regularly sought big names over the past few seasons under Ed Woodward’s stewardship. Although James has caught the eye for Swansea and the Welsh national team in recent months, he is still something of an unknown quality having only emerged during the current campaign.

Here’s what United fans can expect from their potential new signing…

What’s his background? 

Although James represents Wales at international level, he was born in Beverley, Yorkshire, and actually spent the majority of his youth career on the books of Hull City prior to joining Swansea City for just £72,000 when he was 17 back in 2014.

Speaking about his move from Hull, James said: ‘I had a great time at Hull, but it was time to move on and I believe that move has been the best thing for me. ‘At the time, Swansea was a category two academy, but I saw that there was great potential and ambition at the club, which ignited the same kind of feeling for me.’

During the 2016-17 season, James played an integral role as Swansea’s U23s lifted the Premier League 2 title, scoring five goals and providing seven assists in 16 appearances, while the team also won the Premier League Cup.

Ahead of the 2017-18 season, James was sent out on loan to League One side Shrewsbury Town in the expectation that he would be given exposure to first-team football, however, after failing to make the matchday squad in their opening five games of the season, the deal was terminated.

Upon returning to Swansea, James enjoyed a goalscoring senior debut by netting the final goal in their 8-1 rout of Notts County in the FA Cup, although that was his only first-team appearance of the campaign as the club suffered relegation from the Premier League.

Despite recouping around £45m from player sales after dropping down into the Championship, Swansea spent just over £6m in the summer transfer window with manager Graham Potter instead beefing up his squad with homegrown talents.

That led to James establishing himself as a regular in the team, making 33 appearances in the Championship – 28 of which have been starts – while scoring four goals and registering seven assists. He also scored a memorable solo goal in Swansea’s 4-1 win over Brentford in the FA Cup, picking the ball up on the edge of his own box before surging forward at pace and burying a finish from inside the penalty area.

Had things worked out differently, James could have been lining up for Manchester United’s rivals Leeds as he almost joined Marcelo Bielsa’s promotion-chasing side on transfer deadline day in January in a deal worth £8.5m. James had passed his medical and agreed personal terms with Leeds, however, on the eve of the deadline Swansea pulled the plug on the deal and he returned to South Wales. Leeds’ loss could look to be United’s gain.

What will he add to the side? 

Pace and lots of it as the goal against Brentford demonstrates. According to Wales Online, James travelled 84 yards with the ball in just 8.48 seconds for that particular goal and Brentford’s defenders simply had no means of stopping him. That is undoubtedly James’ biggest asset as he looks to utilise his speed and acceleration at any opportunity, driving into space and committing defenders when he receives the ball.

This season, he has completed 44 dribbles in the Championship – the second-highest total in Swansea’s squad behind Bersant Celina.

As well as providing Swansea with a counter-attacking threat out wide, James has also been their most reliable creative force as he has supplied more assists than any other player in their squad with seven while averaging 1.2 key passes per match.

His manager at club level Graham Potter has also been impressed with his strength, saying after Swansea’s narrow FA Cup defeat to Manchester City: ‘(But) against Manchester City he matches the physicality of Kyle Walker, for example, and runs away from players at that level.

‘That’s a direct comparison against Premier League players at the very top and you can see his quality.’

Who could he replace? 

Following a bright start under Solskjaer, Anthony Martial appears to have fallen out-of-favour recently, with the Norwegian reportedly berating him for a lack of effort and reportedly informing his bosses that the Frenchman should be sold this summer.

Another player that United would be eager to shift is Alexis Sanchez, who has failed miserably to live up to expectations since making his money-spinning move from Arsenal 16-months ago. The Chilean has scored just one Premier League goal all season.

Should both Martial and Sanchez move on, United will need to bolster their left-sided attacking options and that has been where James has predominantly played this season, with 19 of his 33 Championship appearances coming from that flank, according to Whoscored.

Solskjaer is apparently keen on signing a right-sided winger this summer and although James has generally been utilised on the opposite wing, he has played on the right this season, as well as a No.10 or as an out-and-out striker.

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