There was very little for Manchester United fans to cheer about at Old Trafford on Wednesday night.
Despite securing their place in the fourth round of the Carabao Cup it took five perfect penalties to eradicate the embarrassing performance which had preceded it.
Sergio Romero might have been the reluctant hero with his one penalty save in the shootout, but it was the composure of Daniel James which set-up a fourth round encounter with Chelsea.
It represented the second time in James’ short United career that he dispatched the winning penalty to bring shootout success, but his restricted celebration told a different story.
The 21-year-old might be new to the intense pressure of life at Old Trafford but as soon as his decisive shot hit the back of the net he knew expectations hadn’t been met.
James maintained his flawless professional record from the spot as he netted his third career penalty of Wednesday night, but his brief cameo was more than just about his showing from 12-yards.
The Welsh winger came on with half an hour to spare at Old Trafford and only eight minutes had passed before Solskjaer’s side finally found their breakthrough.
Although crediting the goal to James’ impact would be ridiculous to suggest, the former Swansea winger certainly deserves credit for the energy which he immediately brought to the game.
In just under two months of playing in the Premier League the Wales international has already showcased a mentality which Solskjaer loves, but also one which has made him the perfect big game player this season.
His stunning strikes against Crystal Palace and Southampton might only have yielded a solitary point for United so far, but it seems certain that his future goals will have a bigger impact on results.
In an ideal world the youngster would be utilised as an impact substitute with his lung-bursting runs and perpetual desire to carry the ball forward a nightmare prospect for any opposing right back in the league. Instead, so early into his United career and James has already established himself to rely on when pace is required on the left wing.
Marcus Rashford’s suspected absence for the visit of Arsenal on Monday night might weaken the attacking options at Solskjaer’s disposal, but it certifies a starting role for the latest Old Trafford sensation to strut his stuff.
Arsenal´s necessity for a big away performance should only further encourage United of their own chances on the counter-attack and in turn should fill James full of confidence to have a fruitful night in front of goal.
The 21-year-old has already made his case to why he should be the first-choice left winger during Solskjaer’s reign and if he can produce a big game performance next week, then he will have left the United manager with no other choice than to agree.
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