On the 5th of March 2012, I woke up to some of the best news I’d heard in a while. Manchester United had agreed a fee for Borussia Dortmund midfielder Shinji Kagawa. This was around the time most United fans were crying out for a goal scoring midfielder. Shinji was just the man having scored 29 goals for Dortmund in an impressive few seasons for the German side.
He was quick, agile and most importantly could score and create a goal. Kagawa was perfect for the team. It was clear he would play right behind Rooney and create many opportunities for whoever played in front of him.
He started his professional career at Cerezo Osaka and scored 55 goals in just 125 appearances for the Japanese club. Then Jurgen Klopp came knocking and €350,000 later, Kagawa was on his way to Germany.
One of his most memorable performances for Dortmund was against bitter rivals Schalke 04. Before the game Kagawa vowed to score two goals and after the final whistle went, he left the pitch with two goals to his name.
He became a regular in Dortmund’s double winning side the next season. He even scored at the Emirates in the Champions League in a campaign in which he contributed 13 goals and went on to win to the domestic double.
In the summer of 2012, he arrived in Manchester for a fee of around £17 million and became the first Japanese played to ever play for Manchester United but right from the off he was branded with the tag of “shirt seller”. He may have made sense to the corporate side of United but he soon proved to be more than that after impressing greatly in pre-season.
Then came the news that brought indescribable joy to United fans. The signing of Robin van Persie. But it was a move that has forced Kagawa towards the wing in order for Ferguson to fit everyone in the team. It lessened Kagawa’s ability to go through the middle and get behind the strikers in “the hole”.
Being a central midfielder, he isn’t as accomplished a crosser as other options on the wings making him a lot less effective. Although, it is not as if United have been spoilt for choice on the wings this season given the poor campaigns of Valencia, Nani and Young.
But saying that, if you look at the statistics he has had a pretty good career so far scoring five goals in 14 appearances, most notably an incredible hat-trick against Norwich. As far as first seasons go, it certainly hasn’t been a bad one from Kagawa but he has admitted he isn’t satisfied.
His downfall is his assists. In his 14 appearances he has only contributed two assists, something Kagawa most certainly have wanted to bettered and I feel the main reason for this assist return is being forced out wide to accommodate Rooney and van Persie in the same team.
Although, Ferguson seems to have a solution for Kagawa. After the game against Norwich, Ferguson said Kagawa would be a lot better next season. Whether that be him bulking up to improve his strength, working on his crossing or finding a way of moving him back in behind the striker. It could be the permanent use of the diamond and with the wingers in such poor form, the diamond has been a viable option at times.
It allowed Kagawa to play in his preferred position and worked incredibly against Newcastle. Another game in which Kagawa played where his natural game blossomed was Norwich and we all saw the fruits of his labour that day.
He is a brilliant player, of that there is no doubt, and he can only get better as he is relatively young. Whether he will become a top class winger, be moved back to become a central midfielder or stake his claim to his position in behind the striker back remains to be seen, but his career can only improve. Now that he has settled at Old Trafford, hopefully we will soon see the best of our new Asian sensation.