Shinji Kagawa has not featured for Manchester United since January 22 and the Japanese playmaker has had to patiently wait on the bench, or not in the match day squad at all, for his opportunity to impress David Moyes.
Thanks to Juan Mata, tomorrow is when he should get that chance. As Mata is ineligible for the Champions League this year, he needs to be replaced and Kagawa should get the nod ahead of either Ashley Young or Antonio Valencia.
European football is where we have seen the best of Kagawa and the fact that this is a potentially tricky away fixture doesn’t change anything – his best performance came in the 5-0 drumming away to Bayer Leverkusen and, on paper, that was a much more difficult game than Olympiacos.
David Moyes must make sure that United don’t take one step forward and two steps back. If he chooses to revert back to playing with forced width again by choosing Valencia/Young over Kagawa and moves away from the passing game that made us look so dangerous against Crystal Palace, it will be precisely that.
It would be a real surprise if we did given that we adopted a slick, counter attacking style built on pace and penetration against Leverkusen but Moyes needs to make sure the occasion doesn’t get to him when it comes to team selection. United should not be pragmatic, we’re going into this tie as the favourites and we should put Olympiacos on the back foot from the first whistle – Kagawa could be crucial to that.
Whether or not it is an indication he may play, the club has put the spotlight on Kagawa ahead of the match with an interview where he insisted a good result away from home is always so important for making it through to the next round.
Speaking to Manutd.com, he said: “When you get to this stage in the competition you can’t afford any slip-ups or you’re out. he away leg is very important – we need to get a good result there. We have a lot of experienced players in our squad who will hopefully help us to achieve that.
“Our Champions League campaign ended at the last 16 stage last season, so we want to go further this time.
“Olympiacos are a good team and there are no easy games in this competition – we all know that. So we have to prepare as well as we can.”
When he has had his chances this season, Kagawa has put in a mixed bag of performances which has not helped his chances of becoming a regular starter. What he needs to do tomorrow against Olympiacos, whether it is for 90 minutes or 20 minutes, is showcase why Moyes is a fool for leaving him out of the team with a solid performance.