The disappearance of Shinji Kagawa

“Shinji Kagawa is one of the best players in the world and he now plays 20 minutes at Manchester United — on the left wing,” the told the Guardian in May. “My heart breaks. Really, I have tears in my eyes.” Three months later, Kagawa doesn’t even play 20 minutes for United any more. His entire season amounts to eight minutes on the pitch. This time Klopp’s grief brought a different reaction: Dortmund attempted to take the Japanese back to the Westfalenstadion. Their offer was rebuffed.



When United have failed to score in back-to-back games, when they are not creating many chances and when Wayne Rooney, his rival for the No. 10 position, is sidelined, the calls for Kagawa have grown louder.

David Moyes has not heeded them, prompting questions that United’s new manager is blind to his attributes. The answer is probably not — the hints from Old Trafford are that the Scot rates Kagawa and, albeit to a Japanese audience, he spoke positively about the player in July — but it is easy to see why such theories have arisen.

The problem for Kagawa is that the schedule offers little respite and few chances for Moyes, a novice to the art of squad rotation after his years at Everton, to alternate. September brings meetings with Bayer Leverkusen, Manchester City and Liverpool. Before then the Old Trafford clash with Crystal Palace, when Rooney should still be missing, appears the ideal game to stake his case: except it comes four days after Japan host Ghana. If Kagawa is presumed too jetlagged, the current impasse could extend towards October.

It may bode badly that he has remained on the fringes when various other midfielders and forwards — Rooney, Nani, Ashley Young, Darren Fletcher and Javier Hernandez — have not been in peak physical condition themselves and before United had signed Marouane Fellaini. Perhaps the most damning detail was that Nani, also apparently semi-fit, was chosen for the final place on the bench at Anfield. Moyes felt the Portuguese was a likelier game-changer than a player who averaged a goal every two-and-a-half games for Dortmund.

The early indications are the 50-year-old (Moyes) intends to play a similar system at United as he did for Everton. In his 4-4-1-1, the support striker’s role at Goodison Park over the last nine years has been shared by Tim Cahill and Fellaini, footballers known more for their physical than technical abilities. The same cannot be said for Kagawa.

Moreover, while Moyes’ preferred plan is clearly for Rooney to rampage around between midfield and attack, Danny Welbeck deputised in the hole at Anfield. Once again, power was prioritised over delicacy.

Indeed, Kagawa has admitted he was not satisfied with his form in his debut year at Old Trafford. Too often he had to don a tactical straitjacket to operate on the left. The quest to ‘free Shinji’ inspired a Twitter campaign but he has not been liberated, either by being given a ticket back to Dortmund or unshackled to operate as Robin van Persie’s sidekick.

And so while United felt themselves the winners in the summer-long battle to retain Rooney’s services, the loser may not be his suitor, Jose Mourinho, as much as the man chained to the touchline or the bench: Kagawa.

Source: ESPN 

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  1. The best of the week (9-15 September) | TOKNOWTHEGAME.COM - September 15, 2013

    […] The Disappearance of Shinji Kagawa […]

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