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Why Manchester United need Shinji Kagawa now more than ever before?

After losing the league title in the most painful fashion possible (Back in 2012) it was important for Manchester United not to dwell on that traumatic afternoon in Sunderland, but to recuperate and rebuild with the help of a large transfer budget. This was done in emphatic fashion by recruiting two genuine world class players in the form of Van Persie and Shinji Kagawa.

Sadly, it’s only really worked out for one of these players. Shinji Kagawa, one of the most naturally gifted passers of the ball in the modern game has become a lost cause at Manchester United, even though a player of his ability is just what this club needs. His weight of pass is consistently pinpoint; he infuses life into counterattacks against knackered teams with his often unnoticed excruciating pace and manages to find himself in exceedingly productive areas when it comes to receiving the ball in attacking situations. His performances aren’t always ones of game-changing brilliance but one of steady, screw-turning control that gradually wears down defences. In a way he resembles his Asian counterpart Ji Sung-Park who left at around the time of his arrival, the way he consistently works hard for the side and plays his passes not exactly splitting the opposition defence but certainly prompting intelligence in United’s attacking moves. This is something United must utilise, because sometimes a killer pass won’t come instantly, you have to work and recycle the ball in order to open up a good gap. It doesn’t come quickly, and Kagawa knows that better than anybody in that united side.

Shinji Kagawa Manchester United shirt

Detractors will argue that no player should require their entire team to be built around them simply to be able to affect games, this is a fair point but at times this type of mindset is necessary. It is done successfully at Chelsea where Hazard is targeted by other players working hard (and smart) to give him space on the flanks to be affective. It is also done in the blue half of Manchester where players work off David Silva in order to produce opportunities. It’s also argued that Kagawa’s lack of physicality has hindered his capability in the Premier League. This shouldn’t be something that affects him though, if you look at the way Silva and Mata have adapted their game it’s very telling that players with good enough knowledge and awareness, along with excellent technicality can flourish in the Premier League. This is the only justified criticism you could make regarding Shinji Kagawa.

shinji kagawa

Unfortunately for Kagawa, he came into a side that boasted (and still do) one of the best number tens on the planet in the form of Wayne Rooney. This has resulted in the Japanese playmaker being drafted out onto the wing or the bench for a large proportion of his Manchester United career. When you’re playing on a flank, your passing options reduce to around 30 degrees as opposed to around 180 degrees when you are in that number ten role, not only has this proved to be a restriction, but it’s also demoralised any form of confidence and arrogance that Kagawa had when he joined the club. Due to this, Kagawa only really obtains one special moment of his 18 or so months at united, which is when he netted a hat trick at home to Norwich City on a sunny March afternoon last season. That performance displayed vigour, attacking verve and a lot of composure as well as maturity. With the inclusion of Juan Mata in the side it makes it that much harder for Kagawa to be involved in the side, and with the way Moyes likes to use wingers and a centre forward there is only really space for one player to fill that role in behind the striker. So with the heartbeat and engine of the club Wayne Rooney instrumental in any success that comes our way this season and arguably the most talented controller and distributor of the ball in the Premier league in the form of Juan Mata both vying for a place to play in that number 10 role, it seems poor Shinji won’t get a look in anytime soon.


Despite this, I firmly believe that if we are to have any success over a free scoring Liverpool side; that are brimming with confidence come 16th March it is pivotal that Kagawa is included in the side playing in his favoured position. Obviously the inclusion of Rooney is detrimental to any game and for this match he is needed more than ever. I think he ought to play a more advanced role to accompany Van Persie. Januzaj and Valencia should patrol the flanks and Mata brought on as the game requires fresh legs. The reason Kagawa must play is down to the way Liverpool set up. Now even though the scousers have been somewhat magnificent this season, there are still chinks in this Merseyside armour, particularly in the defence. Rodgers tends to play a relatively balanced line with neither fullback really bombing forward; Cisshoko, Flanagan and Johnson don’t particularly offer that much pace going forward. This means that a bit of patience is required, an array of attempted ‘killer passes’ didn’t work at home to Fulham so it only makes the prospect of doing it against Liverpool that less logical. This is why using Kagawa will benefit the united side because he will certainly know when to play the simple pass and release a key pass. What’s also worth noting is the potential Liverpool midfield; I expect it to be Gerrard and Henderson, who both don’t mind getting forward, and will against our defence, there has maybe been a sense of intimidation and insecurity in the past few seasons whenever Liverpool came to Old Trafford. That anxiety is now eradicated. This will leave gaps however, which I have no doubt Kagawa will exploit with his energy and passing ability. The reason I don’t believe Mata should start is due to his lack of work rate and speed. Bringing him on with 25 minutes to go with the scores at 1-1 will without a doubt provide an extra thing for Liverpool to think about (even if he winds up on the wing) but starting him will be a mistake as Liverpool’s efficiency and organisation won’t allow him the space he needs to be effective.


Question this you may, but the best way to nullify Liverpool is a mixture of pace and patience. Let’s just say I won’t be happy if I spend 4 hours on a train just to turn up to Old Trafford and see that Kagawa is on the bench.

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By Leo Nieboer

Mourning the loss of Danny Welbeck

18 replies on “Why Manchester United need Shinji Kagawa now more than ever before?”

Rooney is one of the best number 10s? In which world is that? He is a good striker and hardworking but he does not have the creativity of a number 10 like mata, oscar, shinji, ozil, gotze…to mention but a few. and yes i am a United fan.

You do know we can only start 11 players, right?

Playing Rvp, Rooney, Kagawa, Valencia and Januzaj would only leave space for one central midfielder.

lol… oh how i remember only a few months ago being referred to as “kagawas mother”…. well i suppose better late than never that people finally realise we need for attacking players in the squad!!!

honestly, have only skimmed through your article, but little bits ive picked up. firstly, when we had ronaldo, we kinda built the squad around him. barca definitely built the squad around him, but personally i feel its like kagawa is the one piece we need to change a team that stuggles to win, to become a team thats kicks off with check mate.

i stand by us only needing one holding midfielder. why, because the team i believe we should play would mean defenders dont commit as much as they currently do! so there would be less gaps to start with. secondly, we are united!!! stop fearing our opponents!!! we genuinely have the potential for the greatest attacking team EVER! and i genuinely believe this!

de gea
rafael smalling jones evra
fellaini (simply because he is the best we have atm – please dont even consider carrick)
mata kagawa janujaz
rooney RVP

this is the way forward for united. think of it like this. sooo many people keep fearing the risk of conceding, your wanting a midfield that can defend. well if you set up a midfield with defensive players, dont expect to have a great attacking threat, only expect your sideways or backwards passes.

do munich line up defensively? madrid? barca? all the teams above us in the BPL? defensive holding midfielders has led us to this current position, the only change is to try and attack, have players that are intelligent with the ball and can keep possession, split a defense like the click of a button and entertain us with world class football!!!

RVP and rooney need to be pushed higher up. i ask you to remember the season when rooney was our sole striker and was a goal machine. let him be his most effective role which is a striker!!!

I wacthed the game agaist WBA and i thnk kagawa did well aftar thy gve him a chance with him mata rooney v.persie carrick and fellani on mid the will be more balaced with gud passin and creativity and play rafail on RB

I am completely baffled as to why so many people keep perpetrating this myth that Rooney is a great number 10? At best he is an above average midfielder at worst he is a disruptive influence, the best you can get as far as creativity is concerned is Rooney hoofing those passes that Scholes derided when he described Gerrard’s “Hollywood passes” when you could easily find a better pass to a player next to you…. It’s criminal to even suggest he is some sort of number 10. So here’s where it gets interesting, he is nowhere near as prolific as RVP, not as creative as either Mata or Shinji, won’t play on the wings because he whinged about that, never been as technically gifted as AJ, effectively that makes him about as useful as Bebe considering all the other infinitely better options, the £70 million question is why the f*ck did someone find it necessary to offer him a £70 million contract?

Rooney is a better striker than a number 10. He’s the fourth best number 10 at United, behind Mata, Kagawa and Januzaj (potentially).

I agree that you can play Mata, Kagawa and Januzaj behind RVP and Rooney and still have defensive cover. That leaves five players behind them plus goalkeeper. With the attacking flare on offer why would you need any two from Fellaini, Fletcher, Cleverley and Carrick. One will do. The back four can be more defensive oriented because the fullbacks don’t need to support out wide going forward. Jones can play back four/defensive midfield.

Watched Kagawa play for Japan against NZ yesterday. He looked a happy man, given the recent crap that’s been going on at O.T.

People get hung up on formations, 4-4-2, 4-3-3, 4-4-1-1 etcbut flexibil

4-3-3 false 9


the most important is the diamond in the middle:


this diamond is the key to unlock the future. furthermore, these 4 players
are willing to play for moyes based of past performance.

defend? we will not need to since we will possess the ball 80% of the time.
they can’t win without the ball.

everybody attacks and everybody defends. players should be constantly moving. when a defender attacks a midfielder covers the open position then the forward covers the midfielders position and vice versa.

bart simpson is a smart boy. he always outsmarts lisa, homer, principal skinner, marge, burns, milhouse, bullies, etc.

You lost me at he is similar to park. Kagawa is on another planet technically and tactically not just compared to park, but to the rest of our team (RVP, and mata excluded). Not his fault he plays in a system where players have little to mo tactically problem solving intelligence and flexibility, which is whst his game is about.

Absolutely brilliant article – minor flaws but so much common sense! I may add we could even sell Van Persie and still be more than effective.

How come we can all see it as an option and David Moyes can’t (or more probably won’t!)

Rooney up top – striker – goals!!! End of!

Januzaj/Kagawa/Mata behind – creators vision – assists and goals – End of!

Fellani/Vidal (if we get him) or Carrick – solid and clever to stay in role

Shaw (if we get him) or Evra if stays/Jones/Smalling/Rafael

De Gea

May as well get the Jones Smalling combination going so they can set up a partnership – one tough nut no nonsense tackler scaring the hell out of attackers and other potential to be the calmer distributor and reader of the attack.

And if we need to attack more – take off defensive midfielder and replace with another striker – Wellbeck/Hernandez or Van Persie if stays.

So simple but yet made so more complicated but still would allow David Moyes to see it and adopt it. We don’t need a massive overhaul, but prob 3 players if we have the confidence to allow our younger experienced players to develop in their correct positions esp defence – then we dont need to spend millions on others. We already did on Jones and Smalling.

Forgot to add…

I would still go after Kroos/Vidal and Gundogan to replace Carrick, as good as a servant he has been, it needs freshening. Fellaini/Vidal/Gundogan/Kroos (we wont get all three but any two of three new boys) and we will be frightening in the midfield too) with options. We don’t need wingers as system wont allow 9 crossing with 50/50 balls and attacking midfielders we have them already.

Getting shaw and rafael to hit next level means crosses from them as wing backs is enough.

play like Liverpool
4-3-3 couterattack
Welbeck Rooney

Great suggestions by everyone but the relaity is Moyes WILL NOT the players you want together or the formations.

The reality is his plays a 4-4-2/4-5-1 formations.

When have you ever seen Moyes team play expansive football?

there are a few players who are a given to the Utd lineup and only a few changes are made

De Gea

If you see through the season, if everyone is fit then there are 4 postions currently that get changed whereas the others will remain the same. Moyes has not adaptabilty skiils and his tactically naive

Also our defensive is too fragile to have only one deep line midfielder hence why he needs to play two deeper midfielders (even then we are leaking goals)

Mohammed. I agree wirh everything you say aside from smalling being the calm conposed centre back. Smalling’s passing is terrible, his first touch is poor, his reading of the game is poor, the bottom line is he is terrible with the ball at his feet and is the furthest thing from calm and opposed when fced with decent opposition and presdure. He was playing non league football before he came to United and you can see everytime he plays that he is tactically and technically behind the required level for a club like ours. Jones is also technically poor but makes up for it with his power, strength, pace, passion and drive. Im of the opinion that Jones is much better and has much more unfulfilled potential than Smalling, hence I feel that Jones should be a mainstay alongside a more experienced and actual calm and composed defender. To me, Smalling has never and will never be Good enough for our prestigous and great club. We can and should be doing better

Did you all know that clev, welbeck, lingard, januzaj and chica used kagawa in training to show moyes that they are stronger. Kagawa have bulk up a little, but can’t even compare to the wimpy clev. Always tumble and roll, the reason moyes keep him is to be a punching bag, sell shirt and so his wag can keep rooney and giggs happy..

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