United’s pre-season is well under-way. It’s already provided goals, so many goals, mass celebrations of a talented midfield player, Ander Herrera, some wing-backs, and a new manager, who’s willing to give the captain’s armband to both Tom Cleverley and Chris Smalling in a single match. So, pretty successful thus far, then.
But, in the mist of all excitement towards leaving last season behind, and starting afresh, could this signal an end for fan favourites Shinji Kagawa and Javier Hernandez?
On the back of last season, and quite possibly the season before that, you would say so, but with a new manager with new ideas, comes new opportunities for under-performing stars of such like. Not only is this pre-season a platform to regain full fitness, it may be the last chance for one Japanese play-maker and a little pea to prove their worth to the red shirt.
Under-performers were in abundance last term for United, leaving many positions potentially under threat with a squad overhaul called for by many. What places these two crowd-pleaser’s deep in the bowels of the danger zone, however, is that their positions are, well, almost full.
Louis van Gaal has recently touched on the matter of an uneven squad, claiming he has potentially “four No.10’s”, Shinji Kagawa evidently being one of them.
Fighting for that place are record-signing, and arguably best player, Juan Mata, and possibly Wayne Rooney and Adnan Januzaj with Shinji, himself. And that’s not to mention bright, up-and-coming Jesse Lingard, Nick Powell and Tom Lawrence – names that so many fans desperately want to see given more first-team action.
There’s never been any doubts over the talents of the Japanese international, but for several reasons so far it hasn’t worked out. Technically gifted, with a sharp turn from that strong, little frame of his, Kagawa picks up positions on the pitch not many others see, or at least, that’s what he certainly can do. Seldom given the opportunity to play as a No.10, but when it has been gifted to him, rarely has he taken it. The hat-trick against Norwich being the only true stand-out performance, still. Often, stuck out on the left, true, but even so, when games have become stretched, ideally leaving space for a player of his technical and creative stature to showcase his ability and take control of the game, the former Dortmund man has regularly gone missing, providing a passive performance, doing just enough.
Shinji is good enough for a career at Old Trafford. Everyone is desperately willing for it to happen, but unless he can convert to a deeper-lying central midfield player, or prove he can consistently perform, and show is face when it matters, it could be curtains for his Manchester United career. It’s a shame for lots of reasons it didn’t work, but the main underlying factor is that he’s not shown those lovely Shinji-things quite often enough.
Chicharito’s career in Manchester has been all very different. A sweet, baby-faced Mexican arrived scoring goals freely, in all types of ways. Love soared quickly between the Old Trafford faithful and this little pea. Sombreros were worn, goals were scored straight off his face, and off the back of his head, as Hernandez fired home 20 goals in his debut season for the reds, lifting his first Premier League crown.
His second was slightly less fruitful, due to injuries and the emerging form of Danny Welbeck, but Chicharito still managed 12 goals, many of them vital match-winners, re-instating his role of a firm favourite of the crowd.
At the start of the 2012/13 campaign, Javier’s third season in Manchester, a striking, majestic, arrogant Dutchman had arrived. Hernandez was still etched in our hearts, but Robin van Persie, let’s face it, plays football much damn sexier than the Mexican, thus meaning a place in the starting eleven was rare. Although, mainly replaced, he notched home 18 goals that term, with notable winners against Newcastle and Aston Villa, proving a player with his qualities can still be invaluable to any club.
Goals are what he offers, and goals are what he often brings, however, with a strike-force including RVP, Wayne Rooney and Danny Welbeck, Henandez becomes the weakest overall footballer of the four, prompting several concerns over his future.
A lifeline may well be thrown Chicharito’s way with a new 3-5-2 formation set to be on the horizon, meaning there will be two forward places up for the taking, but little pea’s like Hernandez deserve to be loved, and loved he will be wherever he may go, scoring goals, and winning games like he does. We know that we’ll always make room for him in our hearts, but it could well be for the best to let go, however hard that may be.