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With Eikrem gone, It's Matty's turn!

Sid Tuesday, January 25, 2011

I think my admiration for Eikrem is no secret and his departure has come as a shock to me, I was so sure that he would make it into our first team this season, evident from my blog earlier this season. I think many close followers of the reserves had tagged him as the next big player to come through our academy! But it didn’t happen, so now I guess it’s time to start drooling over some other youngster, and I think my pick is going to be Matthew James!

James has been kind of under the radar for the past year, mostly because of injuries hampering his progression at Preston. For those who don’t know much about him here’s a synopsis of his career so far, and why I think he might make it at Old Trafford.

Matthew James joined the United academy when he was quite young and made his first U-18’s appearance in 2005, aged only 14! He went on to make more appearances the next season with academy, before becoming a regular in the academy team in the 2007-08 season. Though he began his career playing in defense, he eventually settled into his favorite position as a central midfielder. By the 2008-09 season, he was the mainstay in the academy team, and also a regular with the reserves and he went on to make 22 appearances for the reserves and 14 appearances for the academy that season.

James was rewarded for his great performances in the youth teams with a call up to the first team on 24 May 2009, when he was handed the number 47 jersey and was on the bench for the game against Hull City, he went on to sign his first professional contract in July 2009, and the following season was given the jersey number 43 and was on the bench for United’s 4th round league cup tie against Barnsley.

In February 2010, James followed Danny Welbeck in joining Preston North End on loan; He went on to score on debut against Sheffield united with a shot from outside the penalty area. James had a great season with Preston, as he became a regular starter in their midfield and went on to make 18 appearances that season, scoring 2 goals. James again joined Preston on a season long loan for the 2010-11 season, and got off to a great start, putting in good performances for Preston before getting injured. With the sacking of Darren Ferguson, James was recalled to United along with Ritchie De Laet and Joshua King. He is currently still at the club.

James has represented England U-16’s and U-17’s regularly and also captained the England U-19’s team for the 2009 UEFA European Under-19 Championship.  James has made almost 30 appearances at various youth levels for England so far.

So what about Matthew James excites me so much? Well his main strengths would be his great passing range and vision, allowing him to pick out great passes. He also works very hard in midfield, tracking back and helping the defense too. He is capable of playing in defense and is a decent defender, so versatility also helps his cause. James also has an excellent long shot in him, making him a goal threat from outside the penalty area. James though is not the quickest player and the lack of pace is probably his biggest weakness, but that shouldn’t affect his game too much considering he plays in central midfield.

Matthew’s return to Old Trafford though premature might have actually come at a good time for him. If he isn’t loaned out again, he is sure to become a regular for the reserves again, and will be the leading midfielder in the squad. Thus also giving him a shot at making the first team if he can reproduce the form that made him such as asset at Preston!

I know hyping youth players isn’t really good but I think James does deserve more recognition than he has gotten so far. I might be wrong when I say that he will make it to the first team also since not many players make the step up from the reserves to the senior team successfully but James is certainly one to keep an eye out for! Whether he’s loaned out again or remains at the club, Matthew James for me is one among our best youth prospects!


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