One man who should be delighted with Manchester United’s summer transfer moves is midfielder Shinji Kagawa.
Coming into this June there were a few areas on the pitch that United were seeking to strengthen, none moreso than central midfield. Most pressing was a creative type, followed closely by a holding midfielder who could compliment Michael Carrick’s preference for sitting in front of the back four and distributing from deep.
In the purchase of Marouane Fellaini, the Red Devils found the later. Despite frequently being deployed as a second striker under David Moyes at Everton, Fellaini’s preferred position is as a holding midfielder. His favored duties – getting stuck in and marauding forward. The partnership with Carrick may take a few weeks to gel but when it does, unlocking United’s defensive scheme should prove incredibly difficult.
The acquisition of Fellaini does not, however, satisfy United’s need for a playmaker. After failed bids for Thiago Alcântara and Cesc Fábregas early in the summer, the champions recently turned to Athletic Bilbao central playmaker Ander Herrera but refused to pull the trigger after being unable to agree to a reduction in his $46 million (€36m) buy-out clause.
Had he been brought to Old Trafford, Herrera would have been used either as a deep lying playmaker in rotation with Carrick or Fellaini, or, more likely, in an advanced role to provide that key link between midfield and attack. United’s failure to land such a player has been widely criticized by fans.
Enter Shinji Kagawa.
Three matches into the Premier League season and the Japanese international has yet to get a game with the Red Devils. The only time Kagawa has appeared was as a substitute in the 2-0 victory over Wigan in the FA Community Shield at Wembley, seeing out the final seven minutes of the match.
Why Moyes has yet to call Kagawa’s number is a bit of a mystery. Against Swansea City, the United boss opted for an attacking three of Ryan Giggs, Danny Welbeck and Antonio Valencia (with Wayne Rooney and Anderson coming on). Against Chelsea it was Welbeck, Rooney and Valencia (with Ashley Young and Giggs subbing in), and against Liverpool it was Ashley Young, Welbeck and Giggs (with Javier Hernandez, Nani and Valencia providing fresh legs).
Kagawa is not only blessed with vision, ankle-breaking shift and a touch of silk but he is also versatile. At previous club Borussia Dortmund, he was frequently deployed in a center attacking role where his creativity and incisive passing provided pay dirt for strikers Lucas Barrios and later, Robert Lewandowski. But BVB boss Jurgen Klopp also utilized Kagawa on the wings, where his slicing runs into the center of the park baffled opposing Bundesliga defenses and provided space for other attacking players to run into.
Time is of the essence for Kagawa to snatch what should most certainly be his. Whether it’s the trequartista role or as a false winger who cuts in and creates, the 24 year old is focused on taking advantage of his manager’s failings in the transfer market.
“Tough times are continuing, but all I can do is to work hard,” Kagawa told Sky Sports upon the close of the transfer window.
Now all he needs is an opportunity.