Home ยป Former Manchester United stars Juan Mata and Shinji Kagawa go head-to-head in Japan

Former Manchester United stars Juan Mata and Shinji Kagawa go head-to-head in Japan

by Conner Botterill

Manchester United has been the home of some of the finest players in the footballing world down the years.

United’s rich history has seen players from around the globe don the red shirt and two former stars came up against each other in new surroundings, at the weekend.

Juan Mata and Shinji Kagawa’s current sides met in the Japanese J1 League, with Mata making the move to Asia just a few weeks ago.

It was Mata’s Vissel Kobe side that triumphed on the night, beating Kagawa’s Cerezo Osaka by one goal to nil on home soil, cementing their place at the top of Japan’s premier division.

Additionally, the slender defeat has all-but ended Kagawa’s sided slim hopes of catching Kobe, with Osaka now 10 behind the leaders, with just six games to play.

The pair of playmakers had differing degrees of success in Manchester, with Mata undoubtedly having the better personal spell but Kagawa did leave Old Trafford with a Premier League winners medal.

Kagawa was part of Sir Alex Ferguson’s final title-winning squad in the 2012/13 season, making 26 appearances that season and 57 overall, during his spell at the club.

His clever hat-trick that season against Norwich at Old Trafford will go down as his personal highlight but Kagawa never quite fulfilled his potential at United, moving back to Dortmund after just two seasons.

Mata, on the other hand, enjoyed almost a decade-long spell at United, having joined on deadline day of the winter transfer market in David Moyes first season in charge.

Despite not winning a league title in Manchester, the Spaniard did become a fan favourite at Old Trafford, largely due to his classy attitude both on and off the pitch.

Mata enjoyed many-a-fine moment in a United shirt but his wonderful brace in a 2-1 win at Anfield under Louis van Gaal will undoubtedly remain the standout.

An excellent low finish gave United the lead on the day before an outstanding bicycle kick sent the away fans into raptures and ensured the three points, in what was one of United’s best displays at Anfield in recent times.

Mata also scored the equaliser in the FA Cup final success under Van Gaal, forcing the game to extra-time before Jesse Lingard’s volley won the trophy against Crystal Palace, at Wembley.

The midfielder won a League Cup and Europa League during his time at the club, before moving to Galatasaray in the summer of 2022.

Mata spent one season in Turkey before his move to Japan and United fans around the globe will wish the two players all the best, as they enter the twilight of their respective careers.

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