Daniel James aspires to be like Manchester United great Ryan Giggs whose advice, belief and support is helping the Welsh winger live out his dreams.
Just 17 months after making his senior debut for Swansea, the 21-year-old’s remarkable rise shows no sign of abating – despite some notable knocks along the way.
Seeing a move to Leeds collapse at the start of the year was one such setback, yet it meant James would instead become Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s first signing as United manager in a deal that could reach around £18million.
The winger has also become a Wales international during that time and could scarcely ask for a better mentor than international manager Giggs, who knows a thing or two about succeeding at Old Trafford.
“Giggsy, as soon as I came into the Wales set up, had ambitions for me,” James said.
“The way he brought me and a lot of other youngsters through has been amazing.
“He spoke to me when I first signed for United. His advice was to be myself, which is what I will try to do.
“He wasn’t a bad player was he? What he did at Manchester United was amazing.
“Every young winger looks up to a person like him.
“He was playing in the Premier League until he was 40 and he was still beating players.
“Credit to him, the way he looks after his body.
“It is amazing for me, when I go away on internationals, to learn from people like him. He is obviously someone I aspire to be like.”
Making anywhere near the impact of Giggs will be difficult, but James has made a good start to life at United on and off the pitch.
The 21-year-old has impressed in pre-season training and spent more time than any of his team-mates signing autographs and posing for selfies on Thursday when 12,000 fans came descended on the WACA for training.
Two days on and 50,206 were in attendance as James made his first appearance for club in a 2-0 win against Perth Glory at the mammoth Optus Stadium, where he was the standout performer in the first half.
“Walking out there, with the amount of fans that have come from everywhere is surreal, really,” James said. “Playing with those players is a dream come true.
“I don’t think it (signing all those autographs on Thursday) will ever sink in, really.
“Walking out at Old Trafford is the big one. That is when it will probably sink in.
“But the amount of fans that came to training shows the support this club has got. The amount of fans that turned up tonight from all over is just amazing.”
James has barely stopped grinning since joining the group – quite the contrast to the negativity that surrounds the club following a poor season and a lack of summer activity.
Asked if that negativity had played on his mind before deciding to join, James said: “Not at all. When a club like Manchester United come calling you can’t say no.
“As soon as they did there was no thought in my mind not to be here. Today the support was absolutely amazing. I am so glad to be here.”
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