Known for his blistering pace down the flank, James became Solskjaer’s first signing as Man United manager when he joined last month from Swansea City for a fee of £15m.
The 21-year-old trained with his United teammates for the first time last week ahead of the club’s pre-season tour of Australia, Singapore and China.
And a club source has told The Sun that James’ performance in early fitness tests have put other more senior players to shame, with the youngster coming out on top in both the bleep test – a longer, truly painful test of cardio fitness – and all sprint tests, the latter of which is hardly a surprise.
“The word from Carrington is very encouraging on young James,” he said.
“He is clearly ahead of the game. He has topped all the early fitness charts. Ole was impressed with seeing him doing his own work.
“He came out top in the sprints, even the short ones, by a good margin of five or so yards. He did one fifty metre sprint that left team-mates five metres behind him and also maxing out the bleep test.”
That a 21-year-old from the Championship has topped the fitness charts ahead of other senior players, those who – like James Milner or Virgil van Dijk at Liverpool – set the tone for how the team must conduct themselves, is a damning indictment not necessarily of attitude but more the general levels of thrust in this United team.
Put simply, there are too many players who are either: (a) past their best; (b) simply not good enough in terms of sheer ferocity to compete at the top level; (c) are good enough technically but do not bring enough intensity to their game; or (d), (a) and (b) combined.
James is, above anything, symbolic of the kind of intensity that the best teams – Manchester City, Liverpool, Ajax, Tottenham, etc. – unfailingly produce every week, and also what United so painfully lack at this moment in time.