Kagawa returns – the question is where



The highlight of Shinji Kagawa’s disrupted season isn’t quite a star turn at the Manchester United Christmas party, although those of a more cynical persuasion may be forgiven for making the observation. Certainly the Japanese playmaker has contributed little in recent weeks after suffering a knee injury that has sidelined the former Borussia Dortmund star since United’s 3-2 Champions League home win against SC Braga on 23 October. Yet, 23-year-old Kagawa is set to return before the New Year, increasing Sir Alex Ferguson’s options, and in turn creating a selection predicament.

After three lengthy injuries in as many seasons many wish Kagawa better luck for the season’s remainder. After all, the Japanese has demonstrated glimpses of the form that brought 29 goals in 71 games for Dortmund over the past two seasons. Kagawa’s pace, creativity and ability to play between the lines of midfield and attack mark the Kobe-born player out as a potential Old Trafford star.

Indeed, a fine first month of the campaign offered plenty of hope that Kagawa would add much to United’s attack this season – the missing link between Ferguson’s plentiful striking resources and an Old Trafford tradition of deploying wingers.

This hasn’t quite proven to be the case, with Kagawa scoring two goals in just eight appearances before injury struck. In truth the player’s performances tailed off after a fine first month amid changing tactics and Wayne Rooney’s return to the side, although there is little doubt of the 37-cap international’s genuine quality.

Still, Sir Alex will be delighted with the midfielder’s return and the additional attacking option Kagawa brings to a side that has already found the net 43 times in the Premier League alone.  Few managers can boast such plentiful resources in forward areas without the Japanese’s addition.

The question, of course, is quite where the player now fits into a United side that is scoring so freely. After all, Rooney has now formed a fine partnership with Robin van Persie, with the Scouser occupying Kagawa’s former deep-lying attacking role.

In this there are significant consequences in Kagawa’s reintegration into the side, which may prompt Sir Alex to move Rooney wide, deploy the Japanese international out of position, or change a system that is bringing goals, if not defensive stability.

It may be Kagawa that is the sacrifice. Kagawa can play wide, although most observers conclude that the playmaker’s creative impact is significantly impinged from the touchline, while he offers little genuine width.

Certainly, few supporters will countenance another stint for Rooney on the left wing, and there is little benefit to player or club should an expensive new acquisition be consigned to Ferguson’s bench.

Which leaves a potential change in formation, with Kagawa deployed ‘in the hole’ behind a front two of van Persie and Rooney in a narrow diamond formation. The system has been tried before this season, with mixed success.

There is a temptation for change though. After all, Ferguson has not built a reputation as a tinkerer without foundation. Still, with Antonio Valenicia out-of-form, Nani on the sidelines with injury and Ashley Young inconsistent this season, Ferguson has few reasons to resist his greatest seduction.

Yet, it is a decision Ferguson is set to make soon, with Kagawa beginning full training this week at Carrington. Although unlikely to make United’s squad for the upcoming trip to face Swansea City in Wales, the player could well make United’s bench before the year is out.

Still, there are plenty of fixtures ahead. United plays four times in nine days in what could be an influential period domestically –  Ferguson’s side plays Newcastle United and West Bromwich Albion at home, before travelling to Wigan Athletic on new year’s day.  Then there is the FA Cup fixture with West Ham United on 5 January and the Champions League knock-out stages, beginning in February.

Ferguson’s potential selection dilemma underscores that the Scot is yet discover his side’s best formation or personnel this season. The 70-year-old manager has evolved between systems, deploying too many square pegs for comfort at times, while failing to strike a balance between attacking verve and defensive solidity. The former and not the latter has won out to date, with the Reds’ unchecked scoring coming at the price of defensive openness.

Kagawa will offer little change there – the former Cerezo Osaka rarely having been deployed in a more orthodox central midfield role at any of his former clubs.

However, as the season shakes out, United supporters may yet see the best Kagawa has to offer. At Dortmund, as the pivotal link between a trio of attackers, Kagawa developed into a player of real talent – helping guide DVB to successive Bundesliga titles.

United offers an international stage and profile unsurpassed, but only if the 23-year-old can force his way back into Ferguson’s side during the second half of the season. Kagawa has rarely failed in the past; few would will bet against him now, although Ferguson’s ability to reintegrate the playmaker into a winning side is key.

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Comments

  1. Personally feel he should come back into the team playing on the left. United don’t look entirely comfortable with the diamond yet and any formation with wingers seems to work better even with the form of Valencia, Young and Nani being erratic. In that case it becomes a toss up between Rooney and Kagawa and for me, Rooney wins every time. If we’re going to play with two midfielders we need more of a presence behind RVP and Kagawa isn’t that. To me his game seems to be more about fleeting moments of attacking brilliance than dictating play and with our midfield, I’m sure sure we can allocate for this. Rooney on the other hand likes to drop deep and take control of games and we need that with just the 2 midfielders.
    The most effective minutes of football I’ve seen Kagawa play for united were in the 2nd half vs Spurs. He had the freedom to cut inside and play penetrating balls into the box without the pressure of having to dictate play. While he might be more comfortable in the hole, I’m not sure we have the control in midfield to accommodate him there and given the inconsistent form of our wingers this season, playing him on the left seems the best option.

  2. I doubt Fergie is interested in using the midfield diamond formation much more. It wasn’t working that well for us, and our performances have gotten a good bit better now that we’ve gone back to having Valencia and Young out wide. I think in practice either Rooney or Kagawa will start getting used out on the left, especially if Nani really is on the outs. He plays on the left for Japan, it’s perhaps not making best use of him, but he’s still good out there.

    At the very least it’s handy that we can deal so well with a prolonged injury to either Rooney or RVP, as Kagawa should slot in nicely into the role Rooney is doing at the moment, and we know Rooney can be effective up top if need be.

  3. The latter formation sir alex is using with the duos aint working…let rooney play wide asap shinji can’t even play a 90minute game

  4. Seeing rooney and van persie partnering well upfront Sir alex must go for 4-3-1-2 formation with carrick sitting infront of defence and cleverley alongside flethcer or anderson helping kagawa who is just behind rooney and van persie seeing our wingers are out of form this is best solution

  5. Maybe he can be deployed to the left in a 4-4-2 drifting into to the middle behind the forwards. With the opposite winger playing on the far right. Valencia, Young and Nani fits that description. That would leave a lot of defensive duties on the sentral pair and i could really see Carrick/Cleverly pull that of. Rafael and Evra could also contribute on the flanks.

  6. I can see him being played on the left of a 4-4-2. United seem to be struggling with the diamond formation and playing 4-3-3 with the current personnel.

  7. Can’t fuck with Rooney’s position at the minute because he’s in form and scoring

  8. Damian Garside says:

    All here make an almost water-tight case for Kagawa playing wide left and Rooney further developing his “role in the hole”– of course that doesn’t mean that Fergie will do this, because it makes perfect sense.

  9. Young is in form too now – Valencia is the weak link and I think not fully recovered from his injury. Luckily for Kagawa, there will be plenty of rotation with the Christmas schedule so he’ll get a chance to play his way into the team. Best long-term solution will involve having three rotating players – either as a front 3 (as in 07/08) or something similar to chelsea’s 3 10′s.

  10. I think fergie should try d diamond formation again or a 4-3-2-1 formation.with vidic back I don’t think will have problems at d back like b4.and also we have smalling and jones back.we be more creative and we also control d game with these formations

  11. Dean Jackson says:

    I’d love to see both Kagawa and Rooney play behind RVP. They’re all such intelligent players and against teams who don’t play centrally would have the room to cut through defences. I just like the fact that we have the option to switch formations more comfortably. I do agree with Sidney though… Rooney’s on fire and if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

  12. It’s ok Fergie will continue his project to turn this talented player into a modern day Park by playing him on the left. Especially when he realises we can play anything but subtle variations of 442.

  13. Alfonso Bedoya Alfonso Bedoya says:

    Commenter said:
    Seeing rooney and van persie partnering well upfront Sir alex must go for 4-3-1-2 formation with carrick sitting infront of defence and cleverley alongside flethcer or anderson helping kagawa who is just behind rooney and van persie seeing our wingers are out of form this is best solution

    FFS…

  14. Alfonso Bedoya Alfonso Bedoya says:

    Commenter said:
    The latter formation sir alex is using with the duos aint working…let rooney play wide asap shinji can’t even play a 90minute game

    OH FFS…

  15. Alfonso Bedoya Alfonso Bedoya says:

    Commenter said:
    I think fergie should try d diamond formation again or a 4-3-2-1 formation.with vidic back I don’t think will have problems at d back like b4.and also we have smalling and jones back.we be more creative and we also control d game with these formations

    4-3-2-1… what the fuck’s that… Mike Bassetts Christmas tree???

  16. Alfonso Bedoya said:
    4-3-2-1… what the fuck’s that… Mike Bassetts Christmas tree???

    Mike Bassett
    That film is class.

  17. Ed said:
    Damian – that and Kagawa isn’t very good when playing left.

    I disagree, I’ve felt that Kagawa is at his best in the left wing position. He isn’t that good in the middle.

    • dozer – really? Seeing as he was excellent over two seasons at 10 for Dortmund and really pretty average when I’ve seen him playing for Japan off the left the evidence of my own eyes tells me different.

  18. Pikey McScum Pikey McScum says:

    It’s simple:

    Sell Rooney…

  19. I am confident Fergie will find a solution…kagawa is quality. Perhaps the answer is more traditional: kagawa/cleverly/carrick rotating in games…

  20. Drop valencia, and employ a 4-3-1-2 with Kagawa just behind the strikers!

  21. uncleknobheadffs uncleknobheadforfucksake says:

    Bill said:
    It’s ok Fergie will continue his project to turn this talented player into a modern day Park by playing him on the left. Especially when he realises we can play anything but subtle variations of 442.

    i said this and was called a racist

    its true tho

  22. He’s got more about his game than Park but will do the right thing and not grumble when being played regularly in a position which isn’t his best. He may get some game time at 10 for some of the lesser games or due to injures.

  23. Alfonso Bedoya Alfonso Bedoya says:

    Commenter said:
    Drop valencia, and employ a 4-3-1-2 with Kagawa just behind the strikers!

    The alternative to the Christmas tree…

    The Christmas pudding…

    …ffs…

  24. We should just play to our strengths. 4141: DDG-Raf Evans Rio Evra- Carrick-Valencia Rooney Kagawa Young-van Persie

  25. threadoflength says:

    I’d like to see a 4-2-3-1 with Rooney, Kagawa, and Nani all playing interchangably behind Van Persie. Enough of the static 4-4-2 cross it to no one inparticular bollocks

  26. Alfonso Bedoya Alfonso Bedoya says:

    threadoflength said:
    I’d like to see a 4-2-3-1 with Rooney, Kagawa, and Nani all playing interchangably behind Van Persie.

    This… Although, I’d like to see us get a proper lefty in… and since Nani is probably leaving, go for Bale.

    “Badges, to god-damned hell with badges! We have no badges. In fact, we don’t need badges. I don’t have to show you any stinking badges, you god-damned cabrón and ching’ tu madre! Come out from that shit-hole of yours. I have to speak to you.”

  27. threadoflength says:

    Bale is awesome but i feel like he might be a bit wasted in that kind of formation since he is definetly one of those old school wingers and very one footed (much like a lefty TonyV). Still.. i’d never say nay if did (in some sort of miracle transfer) end up at Old Trafford

  28. James Rodriguez is a more likely outcome than Bale.

    Anyway, my team for Swansea — we should play our strongest available team.

    ……………………. DG
    Smalling … Evans … Rio ……. Evra
    Tony V … Carrick … Cleverly … Young
    ……………….RVP … Roo

    Hopefully we can start Vida against Newcastle.

  29. Ed said:
    dozer – really? Seeing as he was excellent over two seasons at 10 for Dortmund and really pretty average when I’ve seen him playing for Japan off the left the evidence of my own eyes tells me different.

    I’ve not seen many of his games for Japan, but I definitely think he is more effective in the middle. He’s good with both feet, so in theory could be good on the left, but he really shines with a clever short passing game, not pinging in crosses. I’ve heard that he has often been very good for Japan on the left though, but it’s all relative of course.

  30. If Rooney continues to play like today, the answer is obvious….
    Dnt get me wrong I love Rooney but today If a fit Kagawa was there we would have very likely won it by several goals…

  31. Aye, Rooney’s shitness means he can have Christmas/New Year off to eat pies and be a cunt, meaning Kagawa can play in his position and pass the ball 3 yards to teammates and actually be agile on the ball rather than be flat footed and slow

  32. Ed said:
    dozer – really? Seeing as he was excellent over two seasons at 10 for Dortmund and really pretty average when I’ve seen him playing for Japan off the left the evidence of my own eyes tells me different.

    I haven’t watched him prior to United – just the occasional odd games for Dortmund…
    But I thought he was quite ineffective for United when he played at the center. He’s looked a lot more threatening on the left. It’s just a few games to go by I know.

  33. threadoflength says:

    dozer said:
    I haven’t watched him prior to United – just the occasional odd games for Dortmund…
    But I thought he was quite ineffective for United when he played at the center. He’s looked a lot more threatening on the left. It’s just a few games to go by I know.

    I like to think that this is because United don’t know how to play any other way than 4-4-2. You can line the players up in any formation you want but they just default back to two wide men throwing in crosses. Anyone playing in the “10″ position is completely ignored, unless it’s Rooney and that’s only because he’ll drop deep into midfield to GET the ball. Once Kagawa gets a proper run in the team and they get used to giving him the ball in areas he can affect the game from he’ll come good.

  34. Well anyway Rooney’s answered the question now. Kagawa should be picked ahead of him for the Newcastle game.

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