In the wake of his recent goal for Japan Shinji Kagawa told reporters in Yokohama to “ask David Moyes why I am not in the side”. Maybe the Scot hasn’t worked out how to get the best out of him, so here are a couple of suggestions.
“Shinji Kagawa is one of the best players in the world and now he plays 20 minutes at Manchester United – on the left wing! My heart breaks” is how Dortmund gaffer Jurgen Klopp put it.
The 24-year-old was one of the stars of the Borussia Dortmund side that kept the Bundesliga crown out of the clutches of the mighty Bayern Munich for the two seasons he was at the club, a spell in which he notched 21 goals in 49 league outings.
In Sir Alex Ferguson’s United side Kagawa – as long as 33/1 to score the only goal in a 1-0 United win against Crystal Palace this Saturday – managed just 17 league starts last season and he’s only had seven minutes of competitive action under Moyes so far.
In reality Kagawa operated in the various roles across the attacking three of a 4-2-3-1 for United last term much as he did at Dortmund.
However, there are lessons to be learned from the Germans when it comes to utilising him to best effect.
Klopp’s intense high-pressing game is perhaps the key to seeing Kagawa at his best for a number of reasons and it may be that trying to win the ball back further up the pitch will be key to United benefiting from his gifts.
At Dortmund Kagawa would operate behind centre-forward Robert Lewandowski, but when his side lost the ball he would usually push on to close down a centre-half rather than drop off to shackle a defensive midfield player as many similar modern number tens are required to.
This led to him becoming particularly adept at foreseeing opportunities to regain the ball high up the pitch.
As a result he could remain close to his centre-forward at all times, offering a clue as to why his output was more geared towards goals than assists.
To see Kagawa at his best in a red shirt Moyes must get him on the ball closer to the edge of the box.
Such a result can be achieved through freeing him from the marking of opposing central midfielders by instigating pressing higher up the pitch from the team as a whole.