The Kagawa Conundrum – Is Shinji Destined To Leave United?


Before I really kick this article off let me answer one question first:

Do I think that Kagawa can become a huge success at Manchester United?

The answer in my opinion is yes. He is blessed. There are not many as good as him walking this planet today, that can do what he does, in the manner that he does it. But currently… he is residing in a partly self imposed world of limbo…

I have been banging the Shinji drum since day one. The reason for this is he is the type of player I want to see in Red. An artist. A player whose mind works in football equations and sporting algebra. We have had many a player who can do the basics, and that is fine – you will never hear me criticise the Darren Fletchers of our club. But you crave for something more. In contradiction, I have always claimed that I go to Old Trafford to watch United win, and not to be entertained, but it is not as black and white as that. You want a mix, and I am sure that is the way Fergie saw it, when he raided Dortmund and took their trequartista from them.

The first season was never an issue for me. Kagawa was always going to be broken in slowly, and the injury he obtained just slowed that down to a snail’s pace. But I saw Shinji’s purchase as one for the near future – mainly in a future that didn’t include Wayne Rooney. All last year there was that nagging thought that Wayne would start the bull all over again, and low and behold Fergie felt strongly enough to leave him out of his last swan song – a player he had cultivated, loved and cherished, his very own jewel from the North West. It was no surprise to me. I thought the club would off load him, and the era of Kagawa would begin. Well, after a summer of rumour and bile and transfer tripe, Wayne is still with us… and in a spell of form we have not seen for a very long time. On the complete flip side of this, Kagawa… his apparent replacement… is left out wide, competing with Ashley Young for a starting position. Even the eighteen year old Januzaj seems to be leapfrogging him in the order.

I think David Moyes is stuck between a rock and a hard place. He is giving players their chances, and those players are not taking them. How can he play Shinji Kagawa in his prefered position, when the one player who is showing great form is already playing in that part of the park? It’s a conundrum. I do not believe for one second that Moyes ‘does not rate Kagawa’ – but in the same way that Mourinho is unhappy with Mata in his own system, Moyes might well envisage similar issues with the Japanese lad. Kagawa is NOT a left winger. However, the left side is not alien territory for him. He plays left side for his country and knows what is expected. The issue at this current time is his form, and he must take some of the blame for that. No fan of his, even me, can debate this fact. As Moyes said yesterday: “We want Shinji to feel that he’s getting an opportunity to show what he can do. Arguably, his best position may be number 10 but I think for Japan he plays in the same position we’re playing him just now. So it’s not something which is strange to him or not his position but there’s a lot of competition here and what we want is the competition to push each other on to get performances and improve.

Shinji himself also said back in January: “I’m not satisfied what I have done here at all. It is a big and really famous club in the world, but I need to overcome lots of pressures and be mentally stronger. Unfortunately I got injured after a couple of months, but I have to be better and grow as a player and as a person in terms of contributing to team’s wins and succeeding here. We have a really strong squad with many world-class players, so it is lucky for me to have opportunity to train with them and play games with them, but I’m really feeling that I need to perform better.”

There are two specific things that are not Kagawa’s fault. Firstly, his pre season was ruined by the club. Our pathetic pre season tours are now more about the Manchester United travelling circus, rather than our players’ fitness levels. Kagawa, with his status as Asia’s highest profile player, was used in the inevitable commercial way that clubs use their stock, and this had a profound impact on him. He was not ready for the start of the season, and in a post Fergie era…it was all just brushed off as nothing. Secondly, and maybe more worrying long-term, is the constant rumour of a persistent chronic injury. That immediately makes me think of Owen Hargreaves…but both Giggs and Ferdinand have had chronic injuries, and very much had full careers. It might well explain why Kagawa has never looked 100% sharp in a United shirt, but it is speculation – and should be treated as such.

One thing I am hoping does not come to fruition is that Shinji Kagawa is the modern-day Seba Veron. Veron was the best in the world at what he did. He excited me – a player who was from another planet. Sir Alex knew what he was buying when he shelled out on a multi million pound transfer fee… but he could not find a place for him in the team. In a way that was a criminal waste of talent, but every manager has a prefered system of tactics, and in Veron’s case… he was never going to play ahead of Keane. Years later, Michael Carrick was bought to fulfill that criteria, to play along side Scholes, and to look after the football from deep… But Michael Carrick is no Seba Veron. The Argentine would have been perfect in the later years of Fergie’s reign, but time robbed us of that scenario.

As long as Rooney is playing like he is, Kagawa will not play as the Number 10. That is a crying shame, but completely understandable. As Keane was to the genius of Veron, David Moyes has no choice but to pick a Wayne Rooney who has burst into life. We would all love to see Kagawa do the things we saw in Germany, to feed Van Persie the way he fed Lewandowski. However, he needs to fight it out on the left against players who are not in his class bracket – but so far he has failed…and he must harbour some of the blame for this. He must prove to Moyes that he is essential, and not just a luxury.

I really hope Shinji comes good for us. Our legacy demands that we have brilliant players who can do the special things in football. But Kagawa needs to buck up his ideas now. We are going into a tough period in our history, with a new manager who needs time and understanding from the fans. Players like Kagawa need to take their opportunities with ruthless aplomb. They need to show that they are of the desired quality, that they are worth the shirt on their back. Shinji saw on Saturday how it works. If you underperform, there is always another player willing to jump into your boots, and show he can do it better than you.

I love Shinji, and like Moyes I will give him time. But eventually…time always runs out. This is the hour of Kagawa right now. It is time for him to make the manager see the magic he possesses.

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About Steve Ferguson 886 Articles
Steve Ferguson had taken over & re-branded The Faithful MUFC website back in the summer of 2014 and is now the owner and editor of the site. Steve, from Ashton-Under-Lyne in Greater Manchester, is a 35-year-old life long Manchester United fan, travelling over the globe to see the Reds play. Steve has been lucky enough to be at both the 1999 and 2008 Champions League finals, seeing Manchester United lift the biggest trophy in the World, none more exciting than that faithful night in Barcelona in 99. The website is a blog, but also hopes to deliver the latest Manchester United news from around the internet too, linked up with our growing twitter account which is @TheFaithfulMUFC, give it a follow as we will follow you back as soon as we can.


  1. Unfortunately I cannot see Kagawa being a success because of Rooney. Moyes made the decision that Rooney must stay and that seems to have ended any hopes for Kagawa now. We have tried to fit him in the team on the left, but its not working. Kagawa lacks the pace needed to play from the left side like we have asked him to. Silva plays the role for Man City but he is quicker than Kagawa and that’s why it works.

    If I was the manager, which I am in my dreams, I would be playing the diamond formation and finally remove our wingers. Valencia, Nani and Young have done nothing to warrant starting matches. If it was me then I would be trying to develop a better style of play which focuses around better passing and keeping more control and possession of the football. We need to play with more tempo and a lot more quicker than we do now. In the diamond formation we can play Kagawa behind RVP and Rooney.

    ……………………..De Gea………………..






    I know they will say that Man Utd always play with width but where does it get us really. We are predictable and our wingers are terrible. No goals or assists comes from them and its getting boring. Moyes needs to be bold and take more risks. Ferguson played the diamond last season and it was a rough stage, but there was potential. We went to Newcastle and played really well and won 3-0.

  2. The problem is that when a new manager comes into a club, he has a style, and he has a type of player in mind that suits that style, and to be honest I think Moyes wants to change things, instead of using pre-season to sort things out, he’s trying to do it in matches that matter, which is a reason for his “different” team selections, it’s costing us points, I think if Fergie had been here you would have seen a different start to the one we’ve had.
    I’m not convinced by Moyes, I wasn’t when he was at Everton, the players he bought just didn’t fit in the United way, and his purchase of Fellaini proved that to me, he is a man out of his depth, and it will take quite a bit of time for him to learn how to swim at United, I think he will drown before that.
    Shinji is one of two may three creative players, and is the best, he runs at defences, he can feed quick balls to Rooney and RVP, but I can’t see Moyes changing tactics to accommodate him.

  3. I agree with a great deal of this article but there are flaws. Apart from lip service there is no evidence that Moyes rates. Kagawa. He has had very few minutes on the pitch. Moyes says that he needs to prove himself. How can he prove himself or get match fit on the bench? Against Liverpool he had a slow start but was just getting into his stride when he was hauled off. Against WBA he was probably our best player in the first half but was unjustifiably left in the dressing room for the second half. You are right that Rooney cannot be left out of the number 10 role the way he is playing. But Kagawa has built up a good partnership with Japan’s number 10 Honda from the left. He could do the same for us until his chance comes in his favourite position. That is if Moyes rated or trusted him.

  4. United are going through a bit of a crisis. There is something wrong with the mindset of most of the players, they are lacking drive and enthusiasm. This is what we should be discussing.
    But instead blog after blog obsesses about a frankly inconsequential member of the squad.
    Kagawa always plays left side of midfield for Japan and he did so for 50% of the time for Dortmund. He has never been asked to play ‘left wing’ for United, just exactly the same position ‘left side of midfield’.
    He just has not played particularly well. Very occasionally he shows some glimpses of talent, but no strength at all. He gets so easily knocked off the ball. Unless he improves, and its up to him alone, he will have a long time to contemplate his future from the stands.
    Now can we turn to important matters.

  5. As an arsenal fan l was gutted when Utd signed Shinji ….l remember playing Dortmund in the CL 3 years ago….he taught us a lesson in quick incisive intelligent attacking football….funny enough l had never heard of him before then….in both legs he was by far the best player on the pitch …only the blazing form of RVP saved I our pride….l followed his progress with Dortmund and understood why their fans worshipped him…

    I am still glad Wenger signed Cazorla although deep down it was Shinji l wanted….

    I have to be honest since he came to United he looks unrecognisable….l was convinced the guy was going to be a world beater….l have got to agree with the Dortmund fans FREE SHINJI!!!…

  6. Shinji Kagawa is gifted and with adowned with skills. l always believe in Sir Alex Ferguson when it comes to choice of players to buy or sign. To that effect, l think Ferguson saw something in Kagawa just as he did in the case of De Gea. The Spainerd in the begining of his United cereer found life defficult in Old Trafford with many fans quastioning his accquisition. But Sir was confident De Gea was his number one and must find life at Old Trafford. And today, with De Gea, “life is good.” Back to Kagawa, we all know before he came down to Old Trafford. he is a midfielder, but overwhelmed by Rooney. We should not forget that many players floops when they play in a strange wings and Kagawa is never excluded. Moyes should in some matchs use him in his surposed wing and let’s see. Sir saw something defferent in Kagawa when he demanded for his services. l suggest that Moyes do something extraordinary to improve on and off the pitch and create enabling avenue of symbiotic interaction and relationship between and his players

  7. I think you have nailed the pure reality of the situation, that Kagawa is an excellent footballer, but an in form Rooney is simply a better, more effective, more experienced player, who is more suited to the Premier League. There is no option but to play him left – but I don’t see why him and Rooney can not interchange a bit more, to be a bit more flexible.

    Kagawa did get a few games centrally, but even then, just did not effect the game enough. For me, he has shown very little impact on games, besides a few lovely touches. Lovely touches don’t cut it at Man Utd, ask Berbatov who was shipped out as a talented flop.

    The main issue for me is he has looked incredibly weak on the ball, countless times he is pushed off the ball, and he lies there waiting for a foul that is never going to come. I put a bit of that down to desire and hunger – he has been here for a year, and should have hit the gym a lot more than he has.

    He needs more time, and I hope he gets it, but sadly for me I can not see him ever being a regular, before we go out and spend big on left sided winger who takes his place.

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