Sold for£25m, now struggling in the PL: Man United played a blinder on “terrible” dud

February 3, 2023

Manchester United have had their fair share of transfer mishaps over the years since Sir Alex Ferguson abdicated from his Old Trafford throne in 2013, with numerous players arriving for big transfer fees while failing to hit the required heights expected of them at United.

Angel di Maria, Falcao, Memphis Depay… the list goes on. Not only have they spent vast sums over the previous decade, they have also made colossal losses in selling players who have underperformed way below their valuation to simply move them on and get them off the books.

However, one move which has actually turned out to be a positive one was that of winger Daniel James, who generated a profit for the Red Devils upon his departure to Leeds United in 2021.

It was a surprising move to begin with. The Wales forward joined the Red Devils in 2019 under the management of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer for a fee of around £15m, and it looked as if the Norwegian was building for the future as the former Swansea City star was just 21 years old at the time.

Alas, the subsequent two seasons saw the Welshman fail to live up to expectations, registering only 18 goal contributions in 74 appearances. Following Cristiano Ronaldo’s arrival in the summer of 2021, James was sold to Leeds for £25m – and it proved to be an excellent decision.

Last season, he averaged a Sofascore rating of 6.64/10 for his performances in the Premier League, scoring just four times across 34 appearances and taking 26.3 touches per game while succeeding with only 39% of his dribble attempts, clearly underperforming for the club as they just about fended off relegation.

His 2021/22 season ended with a whimper against Chelsea, when the winger was sent off following a “terrible challenge” – as dubbed by broadcaster Arlo White – on Mateo Kovacic and was given a 4.2 rating from Sofascore.

He joined Fulham on loan ahead of 2022/23, but his displays haven’t really improved, as he currently has a 6.69 Sofascore rating. The 25-year-old has started only five matches so far in the current Premier League campaign, scoring just once, and he is not having much of an impact for Marco Silva’s team.

Selling James in 2021 now appears to be a stroke of genius, especially considering his fall from grace over the previous 18 months; and given that United made a £10m profit on the Welshman, Solskjaer evidently played a blinder with that particular transfer decision.