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JAMES BRINGS WELSH TRADITION TO MAN UTD

Daniel James brings Welsh tradition back to Man Utd.

One of the most talked-about transfer sagas regarding a Welsh international player in recent history has come to an end, as Daniel James has completed his protracted transfer to Manchester United. The 21-year-old winger has signed a five-year deal, and has described his new environment as 'the perfect place to continue his development.'



The move marks a remarkable ascent to fame for the Hull-born youngster, who qualified to play for the Dragons through his Welsh father, Kevan. He hadn't played a single senior professional game before the 2018-2019 season kicked off and he made his Swansea debut, and it was only last December that he was being touted for a sideways move to Championship side Leeds United. Just six months later, he's a Manchester United player, and has three senior caps to his name. He even scored in only his second appearance; the only goal in a March game against Slovakia.

It may be the case that there's a much larger transfer story to come this summer involving a Wales star, as Gareth Bale's Real Madrid status continues to invite speculation - although he apparently won't be joining James at United - and if there's anything to report there, we'll address it as it occurs. Until then, we have another question to answer.

What if the turbulent few seasons Manchester United have endured over the past few seasons haven't been anything to do with the retirement of Sir Alex Ferguson, or poor choices of managerial successors to replace him? What if it isn't the indifferent form of Paul Pogba, or the rapid decline of Alexis Sanchez?

What if it's just down to the fact that they haven't had a Welshman in the team?

The Luck Of The Dragons?
Wherever they've been used in symbolism and heraldry around the world, dragons have always been associated with power. That's why they appear on the Welsh flag - Henry Tudor chose the red dragon as a battle standard as he waged war against Richard III and seized the crown of England. In some parts of the world, though, as well as being associated with power, they're associated with luck.

The Chinese, in particular, are big on the idea of dragons being lucky. Anybody born in the Year of the Dragon is considered to be lucky, and dragon symbols appear in the homes of many Chinese people in the hope that they will bring good fortune to the house and the people in it. There's a reason you'll see dragons appear over and over again in casino games, from Triple Dragons to Dragon Born, and Dancing Dragon Spring Festival on slots websites such as Lion Wins. The people who make the casino games are appealing to the old 'lucky dragon' theory, and working on the idea that if the dragon is lucky, so might be a player who places a bet on a dragon-themed game. It could, of course, all be superstitious nonsense, but consider this:- Has anything really gone right for Manchester United since Ryan Giggs retired?

Whether it's down to luck, talent, or tradition, Manchester United have always performed better when they've had a prominent Welshman in the side. Here are three examples to prove the point.

Billy Meredith
Some people feel that Billy Meredith was football's first-ever domestic superstar. The stylish Welsh forward was so cool that he even chewed a toothpick during the games. It's a small miracle he never swallowed one and choked challenging for a header. Meredith played until he was fifty years old, splitting the prime years of his career between Manchester City and Manchester United. Of the two, he saw the most success with the Red Devils.

During his time at United, Meredith won the League Championship twice; once in 1908, and again in 1911, as well as an FA Cup. He was also a fearsome performer for his country, winning the British Home Championship with Wales in 1907 and again in 1920, by which time he was 46. He credited his longevity in the game to the fact that he was teetotal during an era in which players were often heavy drinkers, and left a permanent legacy by helping to set up the Players' Union in 1907, which eventually became the Professional Footballers' Association.

Mark Hughes
Such was the impact of 'Sparky' Mark Hughes at Manchester United that the fans have even mostly forgiven him for spending time as the manager of Manchester City. Hughes had just left the club when Alex Ferguson was appointed as manager in November 1986, but Ferguson was so keen on bringing Hughes back that he immediately tried to re-sign him. It wasn't to be - the forward split the following two years between Barcelona and Bayern Munich - but Ferguson eventually got his man two years later.

With Hughes partnering Eric Cantona in a legendary United strike force, the club won the first-ever Premier League title in the 1992/1993 season, following up by winning the league and cup double the following season. The season that Hughes left Manchester United - 1994/1995 - was the first of the three Premier League seasons that United didn't walk away with the trophy. He scored a total of 163 goals for the club, becoming a legend in the process.



Ryan Giggs

However legendary Mark Hughes and Billy Meredith might have been a Manchester United; they pale in comparison to the legacy left by Ryan Giggs, who stayed with the club for twenty-four years, playing almost one thousand games for United in all competitions. It's the shadow of Giggs which may prove to be the biggest problem James faces. He's a young, quick Welsh winger who plays on the left. They may as well hand him the number 11 shirt and be done with it.

Listing the accomplishments of Giggs seems churlish, as everybody knows them so well already, but for the record, he's the most decorated player in English football history. He has winners' medals for thirteen Premier League titles, four FA Cups, three League Cups, and two UEFA Champions League final victories. It seems unlikely anybody else will ever get close. He never quite hit the same heights for Wales as a player. He could now be James' new best friend. As the manager of Wales, Giggs knows better than anyone what's expected of a Manchester United player, and how to balance the demands of playing for Wales with the demands of playing for the enormous club.

Is one 'lucky' Welsh player enough to turn around the ailing fortunes of Manchester United? Probably not on his own, but based on his potential, he's a good start. On the other hand, if United romp home to the title next season, and James lashes in 30 goals on the way, remember where you heard it first.


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Posted: Wednesday 19th June 2019
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