Shinji Kagawa’s Manchester United impact has rarely been out of the spotlight, especially coming to Manchester with the burgeoning reputation he had built for himself in Germany.
Destroying the Bayern Munich juggernaut and their domestic dominance in 2011 in front of the taken aback Sir Alex Ferguson was enough to take advantage of Kagawa’s contract situation and pay a meagre £12M in today’s market for his undoubted talent.
Kagawa has gone through mixed fortunes at Old Trafford. 6 goals in his debut season in England highlighted his initial struggles to adapt to new surroundings, especially as he was notching double figures consistently for Jurgen Klopp.
Wayne Rooney has been reborn this season, his form has been a key factor in propelling us up the table Ultimately, to Kagawa’s detriment, he has not been able to get into that preferred role just off the main striker. He has only played there for a combined half an hour, home and away to Sociedad, and he looked like he could open the door, he exploited the space and used his vision and movement to good effect.
So why can’t he replicate this form off the left?
A valid question, considering that he is deployed there with good results for Japan. During the most recent International break, which ended yesterday, Kagawa earned rave reviews for his displays against Robin Van Persie’s Dutch and Marouane Fellaini’s Red Devils, both off the left flank ironically enough.
Is Kagawa simply not up to the physical rigours and demands of Premier League football? Is he just not getting enough of the ball, especially given Wayne Rooney’s form?
David Moyes has started to trust Kagawa, starting him in the Champions League and recently against Arsenal. Yet he has an awkward look to his play on that left side for some reason. He is not yet diligent enough to carry out the defensive duties required on the flank, say in comparison to Valencia, Welbeck and even Young (believe it or not), who all at least provide guaranteed industry without the ball.
He doesn’t really get involved as much as he would like from that side, a mind-boggling situation given how influential he is to his country from that very position. There is no reason to think that Rooney and Kagawa could not interchange positions and almost play floating positions. Rooney more than does his fair share of defensive backtracking, this could make up for Kagawa’s lack of endeavour in that respect, and I mean that in the nicest possible way. Those two could wreak havoc, alongside say Januzaj on the right, all three could rotate, meaning the opposition defences would have no idea who to pick up.
Because at the minute, Kagawa is rather a luxury player, someone who you sacrifice defensively to bring the best out of them offensively. So if Kagawa really is the saviour of our creative ‘woes’ like the social media brigade acclaim with the #PlayKagawa hashtag (make of that what you will), isn’t it time he showed it?
Truly great players are flexible and adapt to new roles for the greater good of the team. Adnan Januzaj can play three positions according to the staff at United, he has thus far not failed in all of them.
It’s not like Kagawa even should have to adapt, as many point out that he is mightily effective off the left for Japan.
So we need this Jekyll and Hyde story off the left flank for club and country to step up now and remind us of what he is capable of.
He had his best game in a United shirt off the left flank against Norwich and scored a hat-trick last season, he is capable of doing it. Let’s see it Shinji.