Football News

Rio Ferdinand: Dan James was never a “Manchester United standard” player

By Ben Green

Published: 11:32, 7 September 2021

Rio Ferdinand believes the sale of Dan James to Leeds United was necessary as the Welsh winger was never at the “standard” required to play for Manchester United.

The 23-year-old pace merchant completed a £25m move to Leeds on deadline day, a club for whom he nearly joined in January 2019 after Marcelo Bielsa’s side agreed a £10m fee with Swansea, only for the deal to collapse at the eleventh hour.

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James ultimately moved to Old Trafford that summer and has spent the past two season vying for a starting berth in Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s first team. Despite a productive maiden campaign, in which he featured 33 times in the Premier League, James was restricted to just 15 appearances last term.

Solskjaer handed the winger a start in the club’s 5-1 curtain-raising win over Leeds this season, but following the signings of Jadon Sancho, Cristiano Ronaldo and the return of Jesse Lingard from his excellent loan spell at West Ham, James would have found playing time scarce this campaign.

As such, he has relocated to Elland Road, adding another frightening dimension to Bielsa’s scintillating attack, but despite the Argentine’s obvious appreciation for James’ talents, with this being the second time he has approached him, Man Utd legend Ferdinand does not share his level of admiration.

The former Red Devil believes James never possessed the level of quality needed to don the Man Utd shirt, though he does believe the Wales international will be a fantastic addition to Bielsa’s squad, and fits the Leeds manager’s system like a hand to a glove.

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Ferdinand told his FIVE YouTube channel: “They’ve been on him for ages, they’ve wanted this boy for time.

“Listen, Dan James, I don’t think he’s Man Utd standard, but he’s definitely Premier League standard and the way Leeds play, he’s going to be a problem for a few teams.

“The kid in that team will be getting the ball and getting forward quick, and that suits his game.

“When you have to break down two banks of four like Man Utd that doesn’t suit James’ game, he likes space. Leeds United for Dan James will be a fantastic move for both parties.”

Ferdinand is certainly correct in his assessment that James could flourish in the high-energy, high-octane system implemented by Bielsa in West Yorkshire. In fact, last season Leeds finished the Premier League campaign having registered more fast breaks than any other team (29).

That level of devastation on the counter will be given an adrenaline shot with the arrival of James, whose game is largely based on the breakneck speed in which he surges forward. If he can improve his end product under Bielsa, their football relationship could be a very fruitful one.