It appeared that James would be remaining at Manchester United and that Leeds United would not be signing a winger in the transfer window – until Cristiano Ronaldo agreed to re-join Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side, and this opened the door for James to seal a move to Elland Road.
Did Leeds have a good transfer window?
James did start two of the three Premier League games for Man United this season, but with the likes of Mason Greenwood, Jadon Sancho, Ronaldo, Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial at the club, his minutes could have decreased significantly, which he couldn’t really afford having only started 11 league games last season.
Hay offered an insight into how the James deal came about.
“I don’t think Solskjaer was desperate to lose him at all. From what we understand, James had been told about two or three weeks ago that he was definitely in the plans, and he started against Leeds, as you’ll remember on the first day of the season.
“And had it not been for the Ronaldo deal, I don’t think this would have happened. Solskjaer would probably have kept him, but I get the sense that Solskjaer would stockpile players en masse over there to the nth degree.
“I think the board at Old Trafford, and it was a director who told James after the Wolves game that he needed to go – or at least that he was miles down the pecking order. I think they’d realised that they needed to recoup some money.
“They’d signed Sancho, and they’d done Ronaldo and they’d done [Raphael] Varane as well from Real Madrid. There needed to be cash coming back in and actually, I totally understand that from a financial perspective, I don’t think there was any argument for keeping James across there at all.”
TIF Thoughts on James leaving Man United for Leeds…
Despite featuring in the early stages of this campaign, once Ronaldo arrived, it was clear that James would have one almighty fight on his hands to earn a starting berth at Old Trafford, so moving to their rivals Leeds, who clearly wanted him back in 2019, was a sensible decision.
Just because he’s moved to a team lower down the league than Man United, it doesn’t mean that he will be a regular under Marcelo Bielsa, as the two starting wingers from last season, Jack Harrison and Raphinha, performed superbly in front of goal with 14 goals and 17 assists between them in the league.
So it was certainly a brave decision from James to enter a competitive squad at this stage of his career despite clearly being in need of games. Either way, Leeds may be counting their blessings that Ronaldo’s transfer had made this possible should the move turn out well for the Whites and the Welshman.