The 22-year-old has enjoyed another reputation-enhancing season for club and country, despite missing two months of the campaign with a hamstring injury.
Since his return to the starting XI, Thomas Tuchel has utilised James’ versatility, deploying him in his customary wing-back role, as well as on the right-hand side of a three-man defence.
James is also capable of playing in midfield, and performed there with distinction during a loan spell with Wigan earlier in his career, and his recent performances are said to have caught the eye of Real Madrid.
Ferdinand, too, was taken with James’ display at Old Trafford last week during a 1-1 draw and despite competition from the likes of Phil Foden and Bukayo Saka, the former United centre-half believes the Chelsea star is the best youngster in the Premier League.
‘I’m going to go Reece James [for Premier League young player of the season]. I just think the importance that he has in this team, when he doesn’t play in that team now they miss him massively. He has a massive impact in that team,’ he said in his latest show of the Vibe with Five podcast.
‘I watched him at Old Trafford the other day… he was treating some Man United players like boys. That’s how good he is, how comfortable he looks now.
‘I’ve seen him on loan at Wigan playing centre-back, playing in midfield. He’s so versatile. His passing range is off the charts. Just his all-round general play, the composure, the physicality, his defending one-v-one. I think he’s got everything.’
Tuchel, meanwhile, was asked where he saw James’ long-term future ahead of last weekend’s game at Everton and revealed he now has a clear idea as to his best position.
He said: ‘I would love to have two of Reece James, that would solve the problem, it’s like 50% towards wing-back and 45% towards the back three.
‘It depends a little bit on how the opponent plays against us. Do we expect a lot of possession, how is their structure for their offensive transition.
‘For this it can sometimes be helpful for Reece to play in the back three and be the first guy to cover in the transition and to not be involved in the attack. We have his speed and physicality in the protection of the opponents counter-attack.
‘I’m a bit more into that his very best position is the wing-back position where he is perhaps even more decisive, more useful but it is more demanding.
‘The next step is to be a regular player over 50, 55, 60 matches and from there we have to decide that those positions are filled with top quality with him.’
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