Kagawa’s Future – A Call for Calm
Kevin Levingston examines one of the most hotly debated topics of the early season and argues in favour of a little restraint…
If Wayne Rooney’s future was the main story of the summer around Old Trafford, the situation regarding Shinji Kagawa has jumped to the fore now that the season has begun. To say it is a “situation” is perhaps inappropriate. In truth it is uncertain if there is a situation to address as far as the player or the club is concerned. The facts are as follows; Shinji Kagawa has yet to make a competitive appearance for Manchester United this season. The season is three games old and Kagawa has played no games. And fans of Manchester United and Dortmund alike have absolutely lost their minds. Anyone who used a bwin free bet prior to the season on United and Kagawa to have an influential campaign would have been left regretting their bet already.
This is not exactly a new story where Kagawa is concerned. His fans (myself included) have long been hailing the diminutive Japanese attacker as an invaluable talent upon which the club has failed to capitalize fully, especially when taken in the context of the Red’s usual lack of creativity should our wingers or Michael Carrick fail to produce in a game. One thing is clear. Shinji Kagawa is a player quite unlike any other player in our squad. Clever and creative with a fantastic eye for goal. These qualities, combined with the club’s continued failure to sign any real creative force in midfield, means Shinji has become of more value to the team in the eyes of the fans than his performances to date have measured up to. He is hailed as much for the type of player he is and the style of play he represents than for any consistency of performance in his maiden season in Manchester.
Kagawa’s debut season was by no means a disaster. There were moments of quality. Early season goals against Fulham and Tottenham showed a glimpse of what he could provide, and despite a midseason knee injury keeping him out much longer than expected, he rallied well toward the latter half of the campaign, with a key performance against West Ham and a superb hat trick against Norwich. For all the things that stood in his way; acclimatizing to a new country and much more physical league, getting used to the United setup and tactics and the aforementioned injury problems, it was clear that United had a real gem on their hands if they could only figure out how to assert his influence upon games in a more consistent manner.
Then came the summer. For all the media madness surrounding the future of Wayne Rooney, the whispers began to appear early on in the transfer window that Kagawa was perhaps unhappy at United and would apparently welcome a return to former club Borussia Dortmund. Before the season had even ended Kagawa’s former boss Jurgen Klopp was already in the media telling us of the tears he had shed while watching his beloved former player being played from the left.
“My heart breaks. Really, I have tears in my eyes. Central midfield is Shinji’s best role. He’s an offensive midfielder with one of the best noses for goal I ever saw.”
By the end of July Klopp had put the tissues away and informed us that he had indeed been in touch with Kagawa about a potential return, but had been turned away by the Japanese schemer whose mind was set on staying in Manchester.
“It became clear fairly quickly that Shinji wants to succeed in Manchester next season. I would have never expected a different answer, but you at least have to ask.”
Despite this conversation being widely reported by the media it was not enough to quell the notion that Kagawa may well have left Old Trafford in the summer. His lack of appearances in the opening games of the season has only served to increase the speculation about an apparent unhappiness.
There are a few explanations that could be given for the attacking midfielder’s omission. His participation in the confederations cup meant he was given an extended summer break and had no pre-season to speak of. His agent Tomas Kroth came forward at the end of August to shed a little light on the situation.
“Shinji will currently not be leaving Manchester United. He wants to fight for his place,” he said. “Because of the Confederations Cup, he did not have a full pre-season and therefore still has a training deficit. That’s why he, until now, has won hardly any playing time”.
Another reason may well be an issue of familiarity, or lack thereof, between Kagawa and his new manager, something David Moyes alluded to in late July.
“I know a little about him as a player. Sir Alex spoke in glowing terms about Shinji and how good a player he is. I’ve just met him today, so we’re getting to know each other.”
When taking on teams such as Chelsea and Liverpool in your first three games as Manchester United manager, one could be forgiven for sticking with players you are more familiar with to navigate such challenges. In truth, Sir Alex Ferguson himself had yet to figure out how to properly utilize Kagawa’s talents, so to expect Moyes to use Chelsea and Liverpool as an opportunity to field the player would perhaps be a little short sighted. Lastly we have the situation regarding Rooney. It became clear very early that United’s main mission during the summer and early season had been to knuckle down and get to the end of the transfer window with Rooney still at the club. This meant ensuring the long serving striker felt valued. This meant ensuring that Rooney played. It will almost certainly be the case that Kagawa will be accommodated elsewhere in the team while Rooney remains in the number ten position. Where exactly that position may be was not something the new gaffer could afford to try and figure out in such a challenging set of opening fixtures. Looking at things simply, Kagawa was an unfit player that the manager was unfamiliar with that needed to be accommodated somewhere other than his favoured position.
The reaction among fan groups has been ridiculous in the extreme. The season is three games old. Nevertheless we have seen United fans taking to social media sites such as twitter and other message boards to berate the new manager for his decisions, not to mention a ludicrous “Free Shinji” campaign started by Dortmund fans in a futile attempt to get the player to abandon his United adventure just one year in. Even today there have been more quotes assigned to the player along with sensationalist headlines where he apparently urges us to “Ask Moyes” why he is not playing. Such quotes have to be taken with a pinch of salt, and if one reads between the lines you will see no direct attacks on the club or the manager, but rather a player who is (naturally) frustrated at not being able to play yet and determined to prove himself at Manchester United this season.
As fans of Manchester United in the midst of a transitional period the likes of which we have never known, we must approach our post-Ferguson supportive duties with a little more restraint and perspective. Three games of a potential sixty have passed. The season has barely begun. Shinji Kagawa is undoubtedly one of the best players at our club and his mind is irretrievably focused on Manchester United. Time to put the pitchforks and torches away. Fitness has come. Form will follow.
Kevin Levingston is a freelance blogger and regular contributor to CanTheyScore? Follow him on twitter @KevRedLev