Daniel James: Who is winger being targeted by Manchester United?

By Gareth VincentBBC Sport Wales
Swansea City winger Daniel James
Daniel James scored five goals for Swansea last season

It was not that long that Manchester United target Daniel James could not get a game at Shrewsbury Town.

Yet the 21-year-old's rise to prominence this year was as rapid as one of his surges down the wing.

James is "incredibly fast", as Pep Guardiola noted after Manchester City were given an FA Cup quarter final fright at Swansea City in March.

It is a fair bet Guardiola had never heard of James before this season, but he would not have been the only one.

Born in Yorkshire, James joined Hull City when he was nine.

He qualifies for Wales through the parentage rule, and it was thanks in part to his international exploits at youth level that Swansea spotted his potential.

He moved to their academy at the age of 16 in 2014, with Swansea paying Hull an initial fee of just £72,000.

Further payments have followed based on the number of games played, though they do not amount to much given that James is now valued at close to £20 million by the Swans.

Hull will benefit if James completes his move to Old Trafford thanks to a sell-on clause, though it is thought to be relatively small.

Given that James' Liberty Stadium contract has just a year to run - and that Swansea could not convince him to sign an extension - the Championship club have little choice but to sell this summer as they feel the pinch after Premier League relegation.

In truth, James' impact in recent months has been so spectacular that a move to the top flight would have been close to inevitable even if Swansea were in a stronger financial position.

Ryan Giggs and Daniel James
Manchester United legend Ryan Giggs gave Daniel James his senior Wales debut last season

What sort of player is he?

James' biggest asset is his startling pace.

He is able to leave defenders trailing over short or long distances.

Not only that, but he has the capacity to produce sprint after sprint and showed few signs of fatigue even in his breakthrough season in the notoriously taxing Championship.

James is right-footed but has played on both flanks for Swansea - he looks happiest when cutting in from the left - and was also used as a centre-forward at times by Graham Potter.

He does not have the presence of a traditional central striker, but his speed makes him a threat if he is worked into space.

And while he is diminutive in stature at 5ft 7in, James has proved he can stand up to physical defenders, having drawn numerous fouls as a result of his menace.

If there is one area where James can improve, it is his end product.

He made progress as last season wore on, but could still be more clinical, scoring five times in 38 Swans appearances.

He had 87 in the Championship, scoring four times, with Opta giving him an expected goals tally of 6.93 for last term. He had an expected assists tally of 6.9 in the second tier and managed seven.

From the New Meadow stands to the Theatre of Dreams?

Swansea, then a Premier League club, sent James to Shrewsbury on a year-long loan in June 2017.

However, he returned to Wales a couple of months later having failed even to make the bench in the Shrews' early-season League One games.

James was soon back playing development football, with his senior debut came under Carlos Carvalhal the following February, as he scored in Swansea's 8-1 FA Cup win over Notts County after coming off the bench.

At the start of 2018-19, James asked Potter about going on loan again - but Swansea's now former manager had other ideas.

The first signs of his potential were on display in the autumn.

But it was in February that he truly announced himself with a breathtaking individual goal against Brentford.

There was another spectacular effort against Stoke as James quickly established himself as one of the Championship's most exciting players, while he scored a maiden international goal in his first competitive Wales game against Slovakia in March.

Now, as has seemed inevitable for some time, he is set for a chance to impress at one of the elite clubs.

What they've said on James...

Wales manager Ryan Giggs: "He's just a threat, he will be with that pace but he's got much more. He can go either side, he's intelligent, he works hard, a great lad. When you have that raw pace, you are a threat at any level. As a winger, you then have to develop the other parts of the game which I feel he is doing."

Brighton manager Graham Potter:"Against Manchester City he matches the physicality of Kyle Walker, for example, and runs away from players at that level. That's a direct comparison against Premier League players at the very top and you can see his quality. He plays alongside Gareth Bale and doesn't look out of place."

Stoke manager Nathan Jones:"He looks a wonderful player. I have seen him quite a lot. He has come onto the scene meteorically really. One v one he goes behind you, he can run, he's quick. He has all the ingredients to be a top player."

Rotherham boss Paul Warne: "He will go on to have a great career, no doubt. He absolutely annihilated us at our place - he was unplayable. I knew we had to curtail James' pace which is a joke, it's like he's on a motorbike."