Manchester United: Can Failure To Land Playmaker Be Making Of Kagawa?

What a disastrous Deadline Day it was for Manchester United fans, with only Fellaini in to improve on a frankly unimpressive midfield. But United already have the perfect player to provide the invention and guile they need: arise, Shinji Kagawa.
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It was 12:30 a.m. and, after a frantic all day blogging session of Transfer Deadline Day, I sat staring at the wall in a trance. Like one of Jack Nicholson’s fellow inmates in One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest, only with a lukewarm beer by my side and a deeper sense of injustice. You could have spontaneously combusted in front of me and I wouldn’t have stirred. The only thing that woke me from my slumber was the two words ‘Ed Woodward’ which wafted over from the television like a filthy, unwanted fart.

The man’s sheer incompetence during this transfer window has drawn the ire of every single Man United armchair pundit up and down the country and beyond. The following is a list of targets that United approached at some stage of the summer, some more vociferously than others, from different leagues, playing in all sorts of positions. Can you spot the one thing they all have in common?

Daniele De Rossi, Ander Herrera, Fabio Coentrao, Ezequiel Garay, Sami Khedira, Leighton Baines, Cesc Fabregas, Thiago Alcantara, Gareth Bale and Luka Modric (there are inevitably more).

Of course you can; the sole thing they all have in common, asides from being exceptional footballers, is that not one of them joined the new look United under Woodward and Moyes. Not one. The club has become the laughing stock of this transfer window due to its last gasp ineptitude and failure to reinforce a severely lightweight midfield that was embarrassed by a resurgent Liverpool last Sunday. The capture of Fellaini (at an inflated £27.5m) doesn’t fill the gaping holes in the middle of the park. Ashley Young is an expensive flop, likewise Anderson; Tom Cleverly, hamstrung by ‘the new Paul Scholes’ tag; the industrious Darren Fletcher, sidelined indefinitely. Nani isn’t consistent enough, Carrick is brilliant but aging and Valencia is a squad player. Fellaini is a strong and deceptively technical footballer but his signing simply isn’t enough to paper over the cracks of a midfield which, when it comes to facing the might of the Barcelonas and Bayern Munichs in Europe, will struggle to keep up.


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Shinji Kagawa, the time has never been better to prove your class. Despite a Premier League hat trick against Norwich last season and a man of the match display in Sir Alex Ferguson’s last home game in charge against Swansea, the diminutive Japanese playmaker found life difficult as he adjusted to the Premier League. I, for one, expected a more seamless transition from the former Borussia Dortmund star (after all, the Bundesliga is similar in speed and style to the Premier League). If it wasn’t for that hat trick against a mediocre Norwich side, Kagawa’s goal total would have been 3 from 26 games, with a mere 5 assists in all competitions. For a creative, goal-scoring playmaker, these make disappointing reading; some of the stellar names who provided more assists for their clubs in the Premier League last season: Ricardo Vaz Te, Seamus Coleman, Nicky Shorey, Victor Anichebe, Shane Long and even the notoriously greedy Jermain Defoe... Oh dear.

Compared to Kagawa’s previous season in 2011-12 at Dortmund, where he achieved 10 assists and 17 goals in 38 games, the drastic dip in form which left many United fans underwhelmed becomes apparent. However, Kagawa did suffer from a knee injury which saw him sidelined for just under two months; with a new coach to impress, and an attacking midfield berth to make his own, I would hope that Kagawa illustrates that he has the sort of big game mentality required to thrive at a club of United’s stature. Moyes has recently spoken to the press to confirm that Kagawa will definitely be given a chance to impress and, although the Scot tends to prefer muscular, imposing players in the centre of the park, he needs to be more open-minded in his philosophy to please the footballing puritans at Old Trafford.

I hope that Moyes will generally deploy Kagawa as part of an attacking triumvirate behind Robin van Persie in a 4-2-3-1 formation. Michael Carrick and Maroune Fellaini sitting in defensive midfield would suit; both are good tacklers and Carrick can sit back at times, allowing Fellaini to bomb forward and provide an additional goal threat when required. From there, the three players in front would ideally be Rooney, Kagawa and Welbeck, regularly interchanging and confusing opposition defences. The ever mercurial Nani and the youngsters Adnan Januzaj and Wilfried Zaha should be offered opportunities to play in these positions too, providing vital competition and a different dimension to mix things up in other competitions.

Irrespective of which formation Moyes opts for (let’s pray he doesn’t go for a 4-4-2 with Giggs on the wing like against Liverpool), Kagawa’s career is at a crossroads. Gary Neville remarked on Twitter almost a year ago to the day that you can tell how well a club is run by its dealings on the last day of the transfer window. If that’s the case, Manchester United couldn’t organise a knees up in a brewery at the moment. Kagawa, if he manages to remain fit and enjoy a rich vein of form, will be one of the first to profit from his club’s Transfer Deadline Day misfortune.

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