Shinji Kagawa is wasted at Manchester United

Kagawa and Van Persie
Shinji Kagawa and Robin van Persie haven’t been together on the pitch very often this season.

Author: @wastedkagawa
Follow @wastedkagawa on Twitter

We’ve got a guest post for you today, on the use – or misuse – of Shinji Kagawa at Manchester United, by someone who has very strong opinions on the matter. This one is sure to stir up lots of debate, so feel free to discuss (no abuse!) in the comments. Enjoy.

Wasted Kagawa

Cast your mind back to the end of the 2011/12 season, when United have just been pipped to the title by rivals, Manchester City.  The impending arrival of Shinji Kagawa seemed a genuine cause for excitement, after what was an excruciating finish to the season.  Finally, it appeared that United were moving away from the long-favoured and, frankly, outdated 4-4-2, with wingers hugging the touchline.  Kagawa’s arrival seemed to be the first step in moving towards a more modern, fluid, 4-2-3-1 formation, with the Japanese superstar lining up behind Wayne Rooney.  Later that summer, however, it became clear that Robin Van Persie wanted a move to United and Sir Alex Ferguson, understandably, couldn’t turn down the chance to sign the previous season’s star performer in the league.  For Shinji Kagawa, though it wasn’t known at the time, this was the beginning of the end of his Manchester United career.

At the end of the 2011/12 season, the Japanese star had just been voted the best player in the Bundesliga, ahead of the likes of Robben, Ribery, Schweinsteiger, Gotze, Lewandowski and countless others – all of whom have gone on to have considerable success on both domestic and European fronts.  Kagawa finished the season with a total of 17 goals and 10 assists while playing in his favoured number 10 role at Borussia Dortmund.  He was revered throughout German football and after only a handful of Dortmund appearances, then team-mate Nuri Sahin said of him, “the boy plays like an angel”.  In his debut Bundesliga season alone, Kagawa had made an instant impact, with 8 goals and 1 assist in 25 Dortmund appearances.

Things were looking promising for Kagawa and many United fans saw him as the missing piece of the puzzle.  However, after the arrival of Van Persie, and Wayne Rooney’s almost ever present status in the United team, what has since transpired in the next season and a half, has been nothing short of a complete misuse of a player who was previously one of European football’s most promising young talents.

Kagawa featured 26 times for Manchester United in his debut season, contributing 6 goals and 5 assists.  Whilst a reasonable return from a relatively good first season in English football, it tells nothing of the deployment of the playmaker, who was almost exclusively used from the left-wing, and subsequently, his displays in no way matched those he had given for Dortmund in the previous 2 seasons.  Move on to the current season and Kagawa’s performances have regressed even further.  Featuring only 15 times for United, Kagawa has struggled for form and of course a disappointing return of 0 goals and 0 assists.  As alluded to however, the caveat has to be the way in which he has been used.  Played infrequently, mostly from the left, and often substituted part-way through – despite appearing to be performing at a satisfactory level – it seems clear that Kagawa does not fit in the plans of David Moyes.  This relationship then, appears to be heading towards only one conclusion; the sale of Kagawa.

The arrival of Juan Mata – a player whose best position is also the number 10 role, but another who appears to be likely to be deployed wide in order to accommodate Rooney – seems likely to hasten Kagawa’s departure.  For me, this is a huge disappointment; United would likely be a considerably more effective, and a much more fluent attacking threat, were they to deploy an interchangeable attacking 3 of Januzaj, Mata and Kagawa, behind either Rooney or Van Persie.  Rooney’s continual deployment in the number 10 role is to the detriment of the team’s attacking play.  There’s no question that Rooney is a good player, however he’s not likely to find the intricate final ball that United need to cut open solid, packed defences – which has been an obvious struggle this season.  And although Rooney’s work rate and tracking back is an often praised attribute, in Kagawa’s last season at Dortmund he averaged 1.2 tackles per game, which puts paid to the notion that he’s simply a lightweight attacking player.  In the past 4 seasons, Rooney hasn’t averaged higher than 0.7 tackles per game.  Rooney’s goal return is also something which doesn’t merit his position as a certain starter (not to mention £300k p/w!) – 2 league goals in his last 10 starts, 6 league goals since November 1st and just 3 goals all season against teams in the top half of the league.

I hope Kagawa goes on to have great success at whatever team he finds himself next.  I’ve no doubt that, if used correctly, he will be a major asset to them.  Kagawa has been the consummate professional in his time at United.  He’s worked hard, tried to develop his game and adapt to the Premier League, and been critical of himself and his own performances – despite the fact he’s been underused and continually played out of position.  I only hope his seemingly inevitable departure – of a fantastic, mismanaged talent – does not come back to haunt us in the future.

Here’s a short video of Kagawa laying on some inch perfect passes, only for United team-mates to somehow make a shambles of putting the chance away.  If only our other attackers could deliver final balls like these, as opposed to the dross we’ve been subjected to this season.


11 Comments on Shinji Kagawa is wasted at Manchester United

  1. A good read. The misuse of Shinji Kagawa at United this season has been a total farce. I don’t think he had a bad season at all last year given the circumstances, he had set himself up to play very well in the PL this season and then along came Moyes…

    It was hugely apparent that Sir Alex knew just how good a player Kagawa is, I reckon he was ready to get rid of Rooney (which I think would have been a mistake) and play Kagawa in the No.10 position behind RVP. I think the purchase of RVP was a bad decision in terms of moving forward, Rooney is far more effective as a striker and far too slow and laborious as a CAM. United only bought RVP so that City could not.

    This season I believe a large part of Kagawa’s poor performances are down to two things, Moyes telling him what to do from the touchline, Moyes seems very vocal and as we all know, tactically inept. I would bet on the fact that he is curbing Kagawa’s creative and intelligent instincts, the attributes that made Kagawa lethal in the Bundesliga. The second thing being team mates still not passing to him when he is in acres of space, when Kagawa is in space he WILL use it effectively, he isn’t commanding the respect he deserves. You can see in games Carrick, Fletcher, Ferdinand and last season Scholes all liked to get the ball to him because they recognise his abilities.

    Look at Mata, he arrived and everyone wants to pass the ball to him because he is Juan Mata, a player proven in the PL at Chelsea if he arrived from Valencia and went to Man United he would be in the same position as Kagawa. Mata has played 4 games in a row for United now and he has done nothing at all of note, Kagawa has been dropped everytime he has played a good game, not once in his United career has he had a settled run of games, I would bet he would be devastating with a run of 10 consecutive games at United but I will never ever be able to prove that. His confidence is probably shot to pieces, David Moyes has taken a world class talent and turned it into a 4th choice midfielder for a mid table PL side. Arguably Kagawa is the reason United progressed from the group stages of the Champions League, Moyes rewarded him with a place on the bench and faced Olympiakos with a formation and game plan that wouldn’t have looked out of place 50yrs ago.

    The fact is United just don’t play like Arsenal and Chelsea where everyone plays for each other and each player on the pitch is treated with equal amounts of ball time where fluid football is played across the whole span of the pitch. United this season are one trick ponies and even though they looooove their wide players there is always one wide player isolated and ineffective for large spells of a match, when Kagawa plays left wing it is always him.

    Controversial claim? Kagawa is a better footballer than Mata, I ain’t talking dead balls I am talking ball on the ground football. I cannot wait until he leave for pastures new. I just hope it isn’t at Bestikas! I know nothing of Turkish footy.

  2. Yes. I keep hearing the words “to accommodate Rooney”, “to accommodate Rooney”. Next year, instead of competing in the Champions League, we will be participating in lucrative friendlies far away from old Trafford …. “to accommodate Rooney”, “to accommodate Rooney”.

  3. Very good article. Spot on in your assessment. It’s a japanese tragedy alright and Kagawa will look back at this blip in his career and wished he had not been swayed by SAF to join United. Yes, Kagawa was brought in to add variety and to provide for the future after Rooney moved on (which was certain under SAF). RVP would still have played well with kagawa but it would never work with Rooney on the field. With SAF departure, it was Kagawa’s misfortune that an old school British type manager like DM took over. If DM was open to changes Kagawa would still stand achance as many of the games United played well this season involved him playing but DM is a stubborn mule that only wants the bash and cross player. Rooney is not the cure but the problem too. If a player is too big for the club and warrants automatic selection (to justify his huge salary) he jolly well perform every game! But I am afraid Rooney is now an immovable object in the team, so sayonara Kagawa. It was a pleasure to see the brief silky skills and we will only dream of what may have been – an exciting United team with variety and creativity playing with style and attacking fervour!
    By the way, the way Mata is being played he will soon sink like Kagawa! But Mata may be saved as RVP will go before he does!

  4. I have to totally agree with article and this is why itmakes no sense for us to have bought mata. His career is going to be ruined similar to sinji, hes going to miss out on the world cup because hes joined a hopeless team with a manager who has never played with a real no10 who doesnt defend from the front, let alone try to play with two of the or even 3.
    The only way really these two players will fulfil their pottential is if moyes fundermentally changes his tacticall approach or more likely and unfortunetly for us the players move on.

  5. Please correct my knowledge on few points :

    Kagawa showed glimpses of intellegent football on more than few occasions when given a game time. And everybody with basic to good football knowledge will agree with me that kagawa is a better player than cleverly, young, valencia, giggs, welbeck. So why does Moyes not give Kagawa same opportunities to prove himself than he gives to other players who keeps on disappointing every time they play?

    In the absence of Rooney and RVP, Kagawa was automatic choice to play behind the striker, but he was denied opportunities by Moyes. Moyes played cleverly, welbeck, Janujaj all in the hole, but not Kagawa, and Moyes ended up with disturbed setup and eventually losing games. I am not saying Kagawa’s presence would have produced a different result, but the opportunity could have played a vital role in building his confidence and team around him. The game could be more central than blind wing play.

    Is it a rocket science to play kagawa / Rooney / Mata in a rotating Midfield, with janujaj coming off the bench.
    Instead of praying to GOD and hoping for luck with young, valencia and cleverly to hit form. Why not give try to Kagawa, he cant be worse than them.

    Why buy a player of similar quality of kagawa, and playing him out of position too because rooney commands the midfield. Now we have Mata in ADDITION to Kagawa who can thrive in the hole, but looks average on the flanks. My dear Moyes, 37 Million is too much for experiment.

    Please correct my views, if I my views makes no sense.

    and please pray for moyes, that either he quits, or start acting responsibly and put club before his personal issues. what ever he chose. should be in the intersest of the club.

  6. Dead on. Fergie could never find the right line-up and tactics to make the best of Kagawa with Rooney & RVP in the team. As for Moyes he’s got outdated tactics and is fast killing the players’ self belief. He’s still a great believer of long crosses into the box but RVP is not Duncan Ferguson and prefers the ball to his feet. With the arrival of Mata Moyes has complicated his situation as he was already misusing Kagawa & Rooney. Moyes is totally clueless tactically and out of his depth at United. He has already caused a lot of damage to the team and must be shifted before he compromises the club’s future. Maybe two resounding defeats against Lpool & City at OT will make the directors see some sense finally and sack him

  7. I could see kagawa, hernandez and RVP leaving this summer now. My 3 fav players at united. We are asked to be patient with and back moyes, how is that fair?

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