Post Sunderland Match: Let’s Talk Kagawa & Smalling

Old Trafford is quickly becoming the Theatre of Nightmares, as it once again laid bare the bitter truth that we are far from portraying the necessary level of performance to suggest we can go on a run and take that much coveted fourth place. Nonetheless, last night’s game was a welcome distraction from the all to inconsistent Premier League displays we have become accustomed to at home, and awash with the excitement surrounding the imminent and enthralling signing of one, Juan Mata, it would not have been construed as ridiculous to insinuate that many forget about, not only the magnitude of, but the actual fact that there was a significant game on.

Nonetheless as the build up to the game commenced, excitement and expectation began to bubble, aided by the anticipation of an official announcement on Mata, Old Trafford was buzzing as it was collectively hoped that we could witness a performance that would take is to Wembley to take on our noisy neighbours who have all of a sudden found their voices again. What ensued was a win on the night, thanks to a dramatic ending befitting of Fergie Time, but this only led to extra time and subsequently a penalty shoot-out for which the phrase the “less said the better” comes to mind. In what can only be described as the worst batch of penos I have ever witnessed, Sunderland were victorious winning the shoot out by just a measly 2 goals to win 1.

The following are few of my thoughts from the game.

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Can Kagawa adapt?

shinji-kagawa

Shinji Kagawa can be summed up by a tweet I directed at him only a couple of weeks ago, it went as follows “Shinji you’re breaking my heart”. The significance of this disclose may be lost on those who will continue reading this and claim that I am being unfair on the diminutive Japanese playmaker, but the fact that he’s breaking my heart suggests that I have an unwavering love for him, a love that burns within, so much so that it pains me to see the inadequacy of his ability to adapt to the rigorous demands of the Premier League. Delightful to watch, Kagawa is one of a rare bread. A rare breed of footballer that although, quite often doing very little, has the virtuous aura of class and sophistication that enables him to glide effortlessly across the turf. With technique, touch and vision befitting of the best, there is always a rising level of anticipation when Kagawa gets on the ball – unfortunately, he just doesn’t get on it enough.

Whilst admittedly playing slightly out of position on the left, it must be duly noted that he has become accustomed to moving in to a more central position during game as of recently. Last night this consistent trend was evident once again, and once again it led to little or no change in success. Having had very little impact on the game from the left – once or twice he tried in vain to play Hernandez in, he moved centrally, conversely leading to the banishment of an equally under-performing Welbeck to the left. Still however, even in his favoured position, Shinji did little to suggest he could offer that caveat of creativity that we craved.

Having ended the first half in his favoured no. 10 role, he also started the second half there. However, once again he had no significant bearing on the game and had few too many touches of the ball. This is becoming a consistent theme as he continuously fails to take the game by the scruff of the neck. My point is, that while he has all the attributes to be a top player, hell he is a proven top player having been the jewel in the crown of Klopp’s all conquering Dortmund side, something is lacking, most likely a confidence or cultural issue, whatever it may be his level of performances is drastically diminishing. You must now question if the diminutive midfield maestro will all hoped he could be was nothing more than a wish, a hope a dream. He is quickly becoming part of an illustrious list of top players who for whatever reason failed to make the grade at United. The famous phrase of adapt or die comes to mind in the case of Kagawa, unfortunately the consistent breaking of my heart only serves to suggest that he’s incapable of doing the former and with the imminent arrival of Mata for a club record fee, Shinji could find himself further marginalised.

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A case for Smalling in the centre

chris-smalling-high-ball

Smalling can be best described as a marmite footballer. You either love him or hate him. Me, I am of the former opinion. Having come under increasing scrutiny from a large section of United fans, I think it’s fair to suggest that this is ultimately unfounded and may in time lead to an inevitable U-turn of Michael Carrick like proportions. It wasn’t too long ago that Carrick was regarded as something of an enigma, “all he does is pas the ball backwards and sideways” were regular denounces and where often made in the concrete tone of utter angst. Anyone with a footballing brain knows how crucial Carrick has been, and still is, to the functioning of this United team. Having been the most consistently played midfielder during the clubs most successful ever period, he was finally awarded with the personal accolades he deserved last year, including making it onto the Premier League Team of the Year.

Smalling has all the attributes of a top centre half; tall, great in the air, strong and fast – he is an athlete. Now all he needs is a consistent run of games in his preferred position. Much of the criticism aimed at Smalling this year fails to take in to account the fact that he, more often than not, has been paying out of position, deputising for Rafael at right full whilst the Brazilian was out injured. While lucky not to get booked and give away a free kick in a dangerous area, all in all Smalling he had a solid game. He won everything in the air and was a commanding presence throughout. At 24 years of age he is still relatively young for a centre half, and I am most certainly of the opinion that he has a bright future at United if he stays injury free and gets an extended run of games in his favoured position.

20 Comments

  1. I agree that shinji has been disappointing so far in his united career but look how much the game slowed down against Sunderland when he was taken off , that pass to Hernandez over the too of the defence was unbelievable , if he could adapt and get more consistent I’m be confident he will eventually break into the starting team and go from strength to strength . with Mata in the team though I’m guessing he will be put out on the left again ( especially if they continue play 4-4-2 which I very much hope they do not ) and I don’t think that will ever work for him and they would eventually sell him back to Dortmund but hopefully Moyes plays 3 attacking midfielders to facilitate kagawa , time will tell .

  2. Shinji was the only person who looked like creating last night, and the game turned when he was taken off and that shower Valencia was put on. Just because he doesn’t run around like loon demanding the ball doesn’t mean he isn’t effective. I tell you why he is less effective than he should be, particularly in games like last night, because the other players around him aren’t good enough. Wait til Rooney, RVP, Mata, Carrick, Januzaj and Kagawa all get on the field together (If Moyes ever has the bottle to field such an attacking formation)….then you’ll see how effective he can be. If you watch how many times he plays a clever ball and burst into space, only for whichever div he has just passed to, to boot it long, then you’ll see what I mean….or plays a quick ball back to someone who hasn’t anticipated it. It was the same reason many United fans thought Carrick was poor for many seasons. People simply weren’t on his wavelength and much of what he did went unnoticed. Shinji will come good and then you won’t have to worry about your broken heart

  3. Kagawa is the victim of a chancer of a manager, who has no clue how to bring the best from any player.The team are not responding to him.His statement that we are not good enough is pathetic. It is Moyes who has reduced them from table-toppers to mid-table wannabees.He is an embarrassment. and not good enough.Will Cardiff or Hull beat us.Another first on the horizon.Dithering Dave must go.

  4. I fail to see why people are pointing the finger at Moyes for Kagawa’s shortcomings. “He’s being played out of position”, “He needs time in the team”, “He needs to play in the hole” “he needs to start more matches”. Great players play well, regardless of where they play or for how long. Unfortunately he is being shrugged off the ball like a small child and goes missing for far too long… yet everyone loves him. Mata will be a very welcome addition.

  5. Smalling!!! Totally played well yesterday and is the only one in the team against Sunderland that gets a pass. watched him a lot this season and he continues to improve.lets just stop playing him at right back ffs.he’s a beast in the air and covers a lot of ground.i see him sooner rather than later shading both Evans and Jones for the CB pairing with mangala reportedly on our radar.one united

  6. I too think Kagawa has been unfairly treated and if he goes I think it would turn out to be another Pogba situation. (regretting the decision).
    Take any quality player, relatively new to the club, stick him in a poor team, take out the two main goal scorers for long periods, add a new manager and backroom staff with different training methods and failing tactics, stick him in front of a defense leaking goals and finally play him out of position….. recipe for failure? ? ?
    Give the lad a chance to prove himself or fail, give him an extended run in the team with the forwards back and new additions to defense, I would love to see three in midfield, two being Kagawa and Mata.

  7. This is but moyes’s fault. Look at how saf used kagawa was he any better, sans for a good game vs norwich. Kagawa was the centerpiece of a fast passed attacking offense. United are not this; we have not been this since…08/09? Kagawa is great, and excels when the game flows through him, on the move. Not when he is static, needs to find space, and then dictate play in front of him with a well-composed defense. Ship him back t dortmund plus 15m for gundogan

  8. Quote – ‘Anyone with a footballing brain knows how crucial Carrick has been, and still is, to the functioning of this United team.’

    I disagree. You are confusing the role with the player.

    The role of defensive midfielder or central linking midfielder is clearly an important one. Carrick has been fufilling this role for a while now and has been part of a successful team.

    However, Carrick, the player, has weaknesses and I believe that a better footballer would do a better job for United. Relatively speaking, Carrick is slow, he struggles to pick up runners from deep. He’s not particularly strong in the tackle. Going forward, he rarely takes defenders on, to put them under pressure and is very shot-shy. He’s never hit a screaming volley in his life. Against the top clubs and against better midfielders he has been found wanting. Temperamentally he is too laid back and never takes a game by the scruff of the neck. The tougher a contest becomes, the less effective is Carrick. United can do better than Michael Carrick.

    Totally agree with your comments about Smalling. Play him as a centreback with either Evans or Jones and give him a run in that position. He is the best of the three in the air and the quickest.

    I too am a fan of Kagawa, but we are not seeing the best of him in English football. The emergence of Januzaj and the signing of Mata will mean that Shinji will probably be gone in the summer.

  9. Shinji has not had up to 3 straight games in his natural position. We as a club have been very unfair to the lad. Our new Manager seems unlikely to ever give him that opportunity to settle, given that Wayne n Robin’s absence provided the best window for it and wasn’t utilised.

    Shinji will thrive with great players around him and will play much better with Adnan, Juan, Wayne and Robin, than he would with Chicha, Danny and Antonio. The problem isn’t, it is the Manager and how he is handling the situation and selections. For example, Fletch is back, please stop playing Jones in midfield.

  10. I agree wholeheartedly with James. Our 4-4-2 formation is both slow and ridiculous dull. When will Moyes realize that Man Utd’s traditional brand of football is ATTACK, ATTACK, ATTACK, and if the other team scores, then attack some more dammit!

  11. Kagawa is a good creative player but he is frail in my opinion for the pl and falls Down alot.Carrick has had his day and needs to go or used as sub.Smalling is a worker and there is room for improvement,will allways be handy in the right position,good sub. .Welbeck flounders about ,has good touches but is,nt top notch and a bit lasy.

  12. I THINK KAGAWA IS GOING 2 COMFORTABLY FIT INTO THE LIST OF THE MANCHESTER UNITED FLOPS OF ALL TIME WITH THE IMPENDING ARRIVAL OF THE WORLD CLASS MATA

  13. Ur being overly harsh on Kagawa.

    i have always said he needs to START in the middle.

    u have said it itself he is most effect centrally, so why start him out wide. Utd NEED 2 wingers, so having a winger that must cut in ruins the game!!

    and please tell me, do you honestly believe carrick has been in the slightest bit useful? If Kagawa took carricks place and we had two wingers we would b able to stretch the opposition helping Kagawa be more useful.

    Kagawa did more attackingly than anyone else, possibly except janujaz, and got into more tackles than any other midfielder.

    play him central and then criticise the guy!! Out wide u weaken the whole team and make Kagawa have to adapt as well as the team.

    stop adapting and play to our strenghts!

  14. Moyes should used 4-2-1-3 so that kagawa,mata,januzaj can played together. Can’t wait this combination. Moyes should stop depending on wingers.

  15. 4-4-2 is fine… Its just the played moyes fields is rubbish!!! Central midfield needs to be Kagawa!!! Everyone says it… He cuts in to his preferred position!!

    you do realise this is admitting the original problem!! He has to move in off the wing!! Exposing our wing or sacrificing a striker to cover!!

    come on moyes!!! Stop being so stupidly blind!!!!!!!

  16. ManU need to be Lots more mobile the Whole team and whoever they buy.They need to play counter attack speedy football but its so ¤%&/(
    boring cause they dont know how to play it and they would Loose the ball even more so they play carefull football most of the game and there might be a periode where they try and press and pass into Spaces.YER but not much.

  17. There is no doubt that substituting Kagawa was a blunder. He hasn’t had one chance to develop any kind of continuity in the hole, which is where he clearly belongs. I truly believe the best strike force we can manage is Kag in the hole and Rooney and RVP up top. Another situation Moyes has made a total mess of is the idea that Phil can play effectively in the cdm position. He doesn’t have enough ability on the ball or pace to justify throwing him out there when it’s convenient. He’s trying to do too much tactically speaking and it’s keeping him from getting the best out of our squad.

  18. It seems at times, particularly at home, the moment is just too big for Moyes. I’m not of the mind that he should be sacked just yet, but his poor man management is making it difficult to stay patient. I believe in our club and I take comfort in knowing the cream always rises to the top.

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