Same Old For Daniel James . . . As He Swaps Faltering Manchester United For Anxious Wales

Same Old For Daniel James . . . As He Swaps Faltering Manchester United For Anxious Wales

Daniel James is used to joining up with Wales from a middling club, nor more than on the fringes of finding success, but just not as a player with Manchester United.

A year ago, he was trying to help Swansea City keep pace with the pack of clubs above them vying for the top six positions in the Championship.

Now, despite joining the biggest football club in the world, he’s in a similar position in the Premier League.

It may have been a difficult 24 hours for James, given the current plight of his  United team, but the flying Welsh winger knows he faces even tougher times ahead this week.

Losing 1-0 to Newcastle United at St James’ Park dropped his new club to a season low of 12th in the Premier League. Now he has to dust himself down and concentrate on pushing Wales up their Euro 2020 pool table in Slovakia on Thursday and at home to World Cup finalists Croatia on Sunday.

Playing for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s fallen idols hasn’t dented his confidence since his summer £15m transfer from Swansea City, though.

He is happy to be playing for both club an country and just wants to add a few more goals to his tallies.

“I wouldn’t say it is any different coming into the Welsh squad from Swansea or Manchester United. I thought it might be, but they are the same players and I’m the same person – I don’t feel any different,” said James.

“A year ago I wasn’t really playing for Swansea and everything just happened so quickly. It is just a case of how you grasp that.

“Everyone who speaks to me just says be yourself and don’t let anything trouble you. It is massive progress in the space of a year being a Man United regular and playing for Wales.

“If you’d said to me a year ago that that was going to happen to me I’d have said ‘don’t be silly’. But things happen so quickly in football you have to be ready for anything – and that goes for when things go badly as well.

“When I came into my first game for Wales against Slovakia I was a confident player. I had quite a few games for Swansea under my belt, but I think having established myself at United so quickly has helped me.

“I think I’ve grown into the Welsh team really well since my first game against Slovakia.

“The gaffer (Ryan Giggs) gave me the chance, and I’m really grateful for that, and getting that first goal after a couple of minutes gave me confidence.

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“As a team the gaffer would say we are capable of doing anything. We have got to stick to it. We have got tough games this week and if we can go to Slovakia and win that would be a big statement.

“We’ve got a young team and everyone works for each other. Everyone is fighting for places and all the youngsters are grasping that – Harry Wilson, Ethan Ampadu and others.

“That generation has come through now and it is just a case of showing that we are ready for it and that we can go on and qualify now.”

James made a great start to his international career a year ago with a goal within five minutes against the Slovaks in Cardiff.

A few more like that wouldn’t go amiss for Giggs’ side, who are precariously placed in fourth place in Group E with a game in hand.

They are only three points off second placed Slovakia and a further one back on World Cup group leaders Croatia following their 1-1 draw against bottom side Azerbaijan.

This week could be crucial in qualifying for back-to-back European Championships and James, despite still being only 21, knows the responsibilities that are weighing on him.

“I was in Marbella enjoying myself with my family when Wales played in the Euros in 2016. I remember watching it and it was amazing to get so far,” he added.

“To say then I’d be playing for Wales in next two or three years and have a chance to be with the team at the Euros I’d have said you were being silly. But there’s big expectation on me and the team now to get there.

“The expectation now is to get back to the Euros. We all saw Wales reach the semi-finals of the Euros in 2016 and now the pressure is on us to do the same.

“That’s what we want to do and it would be amazing for me and the rest of the players to experience that.”

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