Dazzling but raw James typifies Solskjaer's Man Utd: A work in progress

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The Welshman netted a third goal in four games for the Reds but Southampton grabbed an equaliser to underline the incomplete nature of United's squad

Daniel James provided another answer to those questioning the wisdom of Manchester United canning experience for youth with a wonderful goal against Southampton on Saturday.

But the visitors' overall performance in the 1-1 draw at St Mary’s ensured that there will be plenty of cross-examinations to come for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and his side, as they continue to show the growing pains of a team requiring further work.

Solskjaer’s rebuild was never going to be an overnight job, and while James made a further case for being considered the perfect replacement for Alexis Sanchez, doubts remain about a disjointed United’s ability to challenge for Champions League football during this extended transition.

Sanchez’s loan move to Inter was completed on Thursday, prompting many to ask what United’s masterplan might be for a forward line lacking any real depth of experience.

However, in James they have an expression of what their future could hold. He is certainly raw, rough around the edges, and in need of having a number of kinks coached out of his game. But then, he is only 21, and those unpolished traits come with the territory in a player so young.

What he does have that Sanchez didn’t during his 19 months at Old Trafford is the ability to make a difference.

After late goals in successive home games against Chelsea and Crystal Palace which bred mixed results, on Saturday the young Welshman made an early impact which was more emphatic than anything the former Arsenal man ever looked likely to produce in a United shirt.

When Scott McTominay sprayed the ball wide to James, there didn’t immediately seem to be an awful lot of danger for the Saints defence. But the former Swansea winger kept his composure, jinked inside, and delivered a rasping drive which arrowed into the far top corner beyond Angus Gunn.

He already has as many Premier League goals as Sanchez recorded for United.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer Manchester United 2019-20

Suddenly, James became the focal point of the whole game. Before his goal, he had had Juan Mata trying to coach him into a higher starting position which would allow United to feed him in behind the defensive line and stretch the play.

Once he had netted, it was as though it was all second nature to him. Twice more he would send in shots which would require Gunn making important saves, most notably from another ferocious effort which forced the keeper to beat the ball away.

United failed to make the most of the platform James had laid, though, and when they couldn’t seem to keep the ball for any significant period early in the second stanza it was clear a Southampton equaliser was coming.

Danny Ings tested David de Gea, and, when the keeper’s punch was returned into the box by Kevin Danso, Jannik Vestergaard outjumped Victor Lindelof to level the scores.

The Reds were offered a lifeline with a little over 15 minutes left when Danso made a rash challenge on McTominay to earn himself a second yellow card. But, in truth, they just couldn’t do enough to pick apart a well-organised Saints back-line – even with a one-man advantage.

Not that James wasn’t chief among those trying to drag United over the line. Again, the winger tested Gunn, while his pull-back following a blocked Marcus Rashford shot dribbled agonisingly out of the reach of any team-mates.

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In many ways, James typifies this United: At times lethal; at others clearly in need of a bit of composure and precision in key positions. United are a half-ruined building with scaffolding still being clamped into place around its tarnished walls.

For now, they are a work in progress, with James dazzling and too many passengers dozing.

Solskjaer warned us this would take some time.

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