'He will absolutely have a point to prove' - former Leeds United man casts verdict on Whites' big money signing

Former Leeds United man David Prutton writes his exclusive column for the YEP and gives his take on £25m move for Daniel James.

Monday, 6th September 2021, 4:45 am
£25m MAN - Daniel James left Manchester United for Leeds United last week and will have a point to prove, says David Prutton. Pic: Getty

Dan James looks like a very good signing for Leeds United.

What he has done so far both at Manchester United and internationally for Wales bodes well for what Leeds have got.

I think Dan is a player who has still got a lot of raw potential but one that needs to be playing and one who needs due care and attention which I am sure is what Whites head coach Marcelo Bielsa will give him. Leeds were obviously after Dan before and almost signed him from Swansea City back on transfer deadline day of January 2019 until the move fell through at the last minute.

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Now he has joined the Whites from the club’s arch rivals Manchester United but I think you just have to say ‘fair enough’ on that score. That’s where Dan ended up as the Red Devils wanted him after his initial proposed move to Leeds fell through. But the fact that Leeds have got him now is fantastic.

Dan is still only 23 but he already has a decent amount of experience behind him at a club such as Manchester United and this is now perfect timing for Leeds in bringing in a player who will absolutely have a point to prove.

The question now is, where and how will Dan fit into the team?

Marcelo plays with wider players that he wants to do a bit of both, come inside but also hold their position and a bit of width. When you look at what Dan does best, it is a traditional winger’s role.

He has got lightning pace, he can beat a man and, once he is beyond him, that’s where you want to get him. I can’t see Leeds changing the way they have played for the last three years under Marcelo to accommodate Dan but I can see them working really hard on him to make sure that he can bring something to that role. You don’t splash that kind of money and you don’t chase that type of player for a couple of years and then not facilitate what he can do.

Leeds are a team that are extremely hard working, that can be quite explosive and now, in Da,n they have added real raw pace. I don’t think that’s something that Leeds have been really crying out for but it is something that Leeds need to make sure is in their arsenal to be more complete.

Dan has played in a more central role on the odd occasion for Manchester United but, if you are raising the question of whether he could play as a No 10, I prefer him with space to run into in front of him and a man to beat with ground in behind that. So, in other words, on the wing.

But now it’s about fitting into a system at Leeds which is rigid but rigid in a good way. Marcelo’s system has been thoroughly worked on to the extent where every single player that comes in needs to know how to do it and then it’s about how quickly they can get into that side.

But, whilst Marcelo has got a way that he wants his teams to play and has brought success, that doesn’t mean he lacks any form of ability to evolve or change or tweak, especially when you have got a talent such as Dan’s.

Some people might think that you could have Dan on one wing with Jack Harrison on the other and that Raphinha could be played as a No 10.

But would that mean losing some of Raphinha’s brilliance on the right? The only way you would find out is by putting him there for a prolonged period of time to see what you get. Since he has come to Leeds, Raphinha has been dynamic and explosive and he has been producing the goods. There is an argument to say that if he has been playing so well out wide then why on earth would you move him to accommodate someone who has come in from Man U?

It’s a very fine balancing act and it will be intriguing to see what Marcelo does. Having seen both players, I would think that Raphinha is more adaptable to playing as a ‘10’ but, having not seen Dan play as a No 10, I refrain from making a cast-iron judgement on it.

If he does suddenly play there and we see something else then that’s another string to his bow with regards to his development as a footballer.

But, whenever I have seen Dan for Swansea, Manchester United or Wales, it’s been about getting down the wing and putting a chance into the box.

That’s when he has been at his most effective, not going down the wing, cutting back and messing about but going down the wing and making a straightforward nuisance with what he has been blessed with which is sheer pace to terrify defenders. The arrival of Dan puts even more focus on United’s record signing Rodrigo as a No 10 as you have other players who could play that role instead. Rodrigo is one of several players that have come to Leeds that are still trying to find their way into a consistent vein of form in the way that Marcelo wants them to play.

There is a very stereotypical, straight-line opinion on anyone playing in the No 10 role that they must be the creator. But it’s not just them. Marcelo also sees that role defensively in terms of how you win the ball back. It’s not just about unlocking a defence, it’s about making sure that, if you do lose the ball, that you and Patrick Bamford win the ball back as quickly as possible. It’s fascinating.

But, as much as we talk about selection headaches and dilemmas and stuff, how great is this all if you are a Leeds fan?

This is the position that you want to be in, having several very good attacking players trying to be fixed into the team.

Let’s be honest, it’s about having three names on the team sheet behind Patrick.

Patrick will be the first name on the team sheet when it comes to going forward. After that, it is about facilitating and creating enough chances to make sure that not only Patrick but all of the forward players can score enough goals.