Shinji Kagawa has vowed to improve his performances in the second half of the season for Manchester United and admitted he has been irritated by how poorly he has played.
The 24-year-old has been very underwhelming this season by all accounts and has only shown small glimpses of how good he can be which has left United fans disappointed given how much was expected of him this year.
But speaking to SkyPerfecTV, Kagawa said all the right things and it has filled me with some confidence that he has both the mental and physical capability to turn it around.
He said: “I still haven’t scored any goals this season so I’ve felt very irritated. This is the first time in my career that I haven’t been able to produce, so it’s disappointing.
“I pressure myself to score in every game but some days it feels like I just can’t win. I know I have to overcome that; actually if I can’t it really shows that I haven’t grown as a player. So because of that I have to really focus on the second half of the season and overcome that mental block.”
Accepting that you have played bad is half the issue for a lot of footballers but Kagawa knows he hasn’t performed well enough and sounds determined to turn his fortunes around.
He may not have featured much in the Premier League but we see the best of Kagawa in the UEFA Champions League where the pace of football is slower and as Juan Mata is cup tied for the competition this year, that is where he has the chance to show his worth to the side.
Looking forward to the possibility of a quarter-final spot, Kagawa didn’t shy away from saying who he would like to play – Dortmund or Barcelona.
He added: “Last year we lost to Real Madrid so this time we want to beat Olympiacos and reach the quarter-finals. Of course our goal is to reach the final and to win the championship. The whole world watches [the Champions League] and it’s the top club competition in the world.
“Last year Dortmund made it to the final and I got to watch my former team-mates play there, so this time I want to have better memories of the tournament. [If Manchester United get through I'd like to face] Dortmund or Barcelona. I’d like to play against Messi and Iniesta.
“I used to play for Dortmund, I have friends there and the fans know me so I want to experience that dread of going to that stadium as the away team and I’d like to see how Dortmund would react.
“Even if they boo me, I’d be happy because it shows they recognise me. Of course I’d also look forward to meeting all the players and coaches and being in town again.
“Barcelona are playing the best football in the world so that’s the most important thing. Iniesta is my ideal player; I’ve watched him throughout my career and hoped to be like him. It’s fun to watch him play and that’s the kind of football I’d like to play.”
Kagawa’s desire to go back to Dortmund with a sense of dread as an away fan isn’t something you hear many footballers do but it shows that he wants to put himself into uncomfortable environments and push his own boundaries, which is precisely what you want any footballer to do.
The first half of this season has been underwhelming for both United and Kagawa but in his acceptance of responsibility and desire to turn it around, he has filled me with some confidence that we could see a different Shinji from February onwards.