Bruno Fernandes’ two strikes either side of half-time, including a sublime effort in the second half, helped Manchester United in a stunning 4-0 victory over Real Sociedad in Turin.
Fernandes’ clever finish gave the Red Devils the lead halfway through the first half before the Portugal international scored his second of the game by curling the ball into back of the net from the edge of the area.
It may not be often that we say this, however, but Daniel James actually outshone him on the night. The Wales international has had his fair share of critics since his arrival at Old Trafford, ourselves included, but this was the kind of performance United fans have been expecting to see from a player who was once billed as the ‘next Gareth Bale.’
Despite Fernandes no doubt taking most of the headlines having bagged a brace against the two-time La Liga champions, James also shone brightly at the Allianz Stadium after he played a key role on the right-hand side of their attack, to leave Italy with a goal and an assist and end his wait for his first goal in the Europa League this season.
After Solskjaer’s side doubled their advantage when James’ pass released Fernandes on goal, it appeared as though the Red Devils would deservedly be going into the second leg at Old Trafford with a vital three points, and from then on it was pretty much one-way traffic as Sociedad struggled to earn a foothold in the game.
James could have ended the night with a couple more goals to his name, too, after recording two shots on target – only Fernandes attempted more shots on target, only for one to be ruled out for offside and another to be denied by a good save from goalkeeper Alex Remiro.
Not only was James a live wire with the ball at his feet, but he also demonstrated a real sense of composure as he produced 18 out of 19 attempted passes at a pass success rate of 95%. No other player in a United shirt scored higher by SofaScore, including Fernandes, who could only muster a pass accuracy rating of 83% by comparison.
In addition, the Welshman also won 71% of his duels overall, winning five out of a possible seven individual battles , which implies that, for the most part at least, he managed to get the better of the opposition.
This was just the sort of confidence boost he needed that will surely only help him in the long run and should do him the world of good going into the business end of the season.
James’ electric pace and incisive ability on Thursday night really made him stand out as Solskjaer’s real attacking magician.
AND in other news, Manchester United centre-back Eric Bailly was colossal against Real Sociedad…