By his own standards, Japanese international attacking midfielder Shinji Kagawa knew that his performances for Manchester United last season had a lot of room for improvement. For Jurgen Klopp, his former coach at Borussia Dortmund, it was a matter of the now retired Sir Alex Ferguson not using Kagawa in his natural position, the creative no. 10 spot just behind the striker linking midfield and attack. As the new season arises and with new United manager David Moyes learning the ropes to handling arguably the world’s most recognized football team, the question remains if Kagawa will figure prominently in Moyes’ strategic alignment as the new season rumbles to a start.
It has been a fairly nondescript start for United this season, 3 games played, won 1, drew 1, and lost 1 to traditional rivals Liverpool. Most pundits say that the season begins for real after the transfer window, and after that speed bump of an international break. Kagawa’s future should be a little clearer in the next few weeks that will follow, and whether Moyes would be utilizing him where he thinks the Japanese creative midfielder would be most creative. But facts and history seem to point otherwise. Facts first, there is a glut of midfielders in United’s roster, especially with the arrival of the statuesque Marouane Fellaini from Everton over transfer deadline day. Moyes has kept hold of want-away Wayne Rooney, Kagawa’s main competition for the no. 10 spot, and even with Nani, Ashley Young, Darren Fletcher and Javier Hernandez all not fit, Kagawa still has not figured in any Premier League game under Moyes as of yet.
In terms of formation, a finesse operator like Kagawa will not fit in with the formation that Moyes is using, as the Samurai Blue midfielder is still used to the Bundesliga style – a creative fulcrum right behind the striker with two wily wingers at each flank, and two defensive stoppers behind him. In terms of personnel, Manchester United has the right sort of roster to make the latter formation work around the Japanese ace, but the question would more likely be, would Moyes have the tactical nous to utilize such a formation and would he want to build that around Kagawa, whose past season was less than stellar and hampered by injuries.
Fans are beginning to wonder if Kagawa will fit anywhere in United and there have been shouts of “Free Shinji” from his former team, Borussia Dortmund’s fans, as well as the supporters of Japan’s national team. He is an important cog in the Samurai Blue machine, together with Keisuke Honda, and as they prepare for the World Cup in 2014, Kagawa needs more playing time to stay fit. Moyes obviously rates the Japanese international, but to use him in an effective role is quite another matter. Surely, the oncoming months of the Premier League and the Champions League should be instructive for the fans and Kagawa himself. If Kagawa begins to shine and his obvious talents manifest, it will become more difficult for Moyes to continue to ignore him.