Solskjaer signing is now worth less than Maguire & McTominay
Manchester United have endured a tough start to the 2023/24 season as they have secured just six points from 15 available in the Premier League.
Erik ten Hag would have been hoping that the club could use the momentum gained from the end of the previous season as confidence that they could perhaps challenge the likes of Manchester City and Arsenal, yet the signs are looking ominous that this may be some way off.
Their form is made to look even worse considering United spent a grand total of €196.7m (£169m) during the summer transfer window on players such as Rasmus Hojlund, Andre Onana and Mason Mount.
Although it takes time to settle into a new club, spending lavish amounts like this should generate results fairly quickly and the trio haven’t really hit the ground running as yet.
Recent years have seen the Old Trafford side spend and spend during in the transfer market, while releasing players who were once signed for massive fees, wasting vast amounts of money in the process.
Think back to the likes of Paul Pogba and Alexis Sanchez across the previous three seasons and a narrative begins to form that the Red Devils have been extremely poor in the market.
One player who they sold actually brought in a profit for United, and he has struggled since leaving the Theatre of Dreams in 2021; Daniel James.
How much did Manchester United sign Daniel James for?
During Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s first summer window in 2019, he began to overhaul the squad, spending overinflated fees to lure Harry Maguire (£80m) and Aaron Wan-Bissaka (£50m) to United as he looked to begin a revolution.
Although overspending, these moves looked to be additions that would benefit United for the next few years and the Norwegian boss went and raided Championship side Swansea City for young winger Daniel James in what was one of the more surprising moves of the window.
Upon moving to Manchester for a fee in the region of £22m, he was praised by Solskjaer, who said: “Daniel is an exciting young winger with lots of skills, vision, exceptional pace and a good work ethic.
“He had a great season with Swansea City and has all the attributes needed to become a Manchester United player.
“We are delighted he has signed with our club and we are all looking forward to working with him. This is the perfect environment for Daniel to continue his development.”
What happened to Daniel James?
The Welshman made 46 appearances for the Old Trafford side during his maiden campaign, registering 11 goal contributions in the process – four goals and seven assists – and it looked as though it could be the start of a wonderful career at Old Trafford.
It didn’t quite pan out that way however, with James playing only 26 matches during the 2020/21 season, while his goal contributions dipped from 11 to seven, and he began to look out of his depth on numerous occasions.
Indeed, for his Premier League performances that term, the winger ranked in a lowly 22nd across the squad for overall Sofascore rating while finishing tenth for goals and assists, 12th for big chances created and 14th for successful dribbles, indicating that when he did get a chance, the winger failed to consistently showcase his qualities.
Instead of making progress, the Welsh winger’s career seemed to be going backwards and during the summer of 2021, after only two years at Old Trafford, Solskjaer sold him to Leeds United for a fee of £25m, which even represented a profit for the club, quite staggering considering how poor he had been recently.
Where is Daniel James now?
A move to Leeds was the chance for the former Swansea starlet to get back on his feet and gain regular game time for a club where the pressure perhaps wasn’t as severe as it was in Manchester.
His first season saw the player make 35 appearances across all competitions, while he managed to score four times and grab five assists during his Premier League games, which suggested a slight return to form.
The statistics tell a different story, however, as he failed to even crack the top 20 across the squad in regard to Sofascore rating, while ranking top of the pile for big chances missed and seventh for key passes per game. Damning figures indeed.
He was even criticised by writer Tom Dutton towards the end of that particular season, who said: “Dan James is a pace merchant with poor final ball and awful decision making. Not sure how he ever got a move to United.”
A loan stint at Fulham last term failed to rekindle any of the magic which saw him move to Old Trafford three years prior and according to FBref, when compared to positional peers, James ranked in the lowest 1% for shot-creating actions per 90 (1.27) while even ranking in the lowest 11% for successful take-ons per 90 (0.79) as his attacking input dipped significantly.
These poor performances have led his value to drop dramatically since departing Manchester. He now looks like a shadow of the £25m that Leeds paid for him just two years ago and according to the CIES Football Observatory, the 25-year-old is now valued at €10m (£8.6m), which represents a major decline.
Such a figure is even lower than the underperforming Maguire who is valued at £17m and McTominay, who is expected to cost around £26m. For what it’s worth, another flop in Donny van de Beek is rated at only £4.3m now.
Evidently, it appears as though United sold him at precisely the right time and struck gold on the Welshman, who doesn’t look as though he will capture the form displayed at Swansea during the embryonic stages of his career.
Although a wonderful move at the time for him, perhaps moving to a club as big as the Red Devils had a negative effect on his career. He flourished in spells during his debut season, but the candle is nearly extinguished on what was a bright flame.
James has grabbed two assists in just four Championship games so far during 2023/24, while creating two big chances and making 2.3 key passes per game, encouraging statistics, as he looks revitalised.
Could this be the start of a career resurgence? Only time will tell.
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