Manchester United: Shinji Kagawa Can Be a Legend

Terry CarrollContributor IIIJuly 26, 2012

CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA - JULY 21: Shinji Kagawa of Manchester United FC in action during the MTN Football Invitational match between Ajax Cape Town and Manchester United at Cape Town Stadium on July 21, 2012 in Cape Town, South Africa.  (Photo by Luke Walker/Gallo Images/Getty Images)
Gallo Images/Getty Images

Shinji Kagawa. Remember the name. You will in ten or even 20 years' time. Sir Alex Ferguson may have gotten himself the bargain of the transfer window for Manchester United.

Of course, it is easy to get caught up in euphoria and hyperbole where the odd £12 million and a new signing are concerned.

But this guy is the real deal.

I remember the day United signed Michael Owen and thought "Wow, that is some coup for Sir Alex." The excitement for the new season bubbled up big time.

With Kagawa it is different, but the same...

United fans have been clamouring for midfield signings for years. Paul Scholes isn't getting any younger, and after he retired it was clear there was a big gap in midfield; especially when Darren Fletcher got sick.

So everybody wants the new Scholes; but we've still got the old one. And you know what? He looked pretty ordinary last night compared to this new young star.

In some respects, Kagawa's play resembles the way Scholes used to be; box to box and dangerous in and around the penalty area; ghosting in to score a goal (which Kagawa almost did against Ajax Cape Town).

Some younger fans may not remember the days when Scholes used to play the No. 10 role, scoring goals aplenty.


Goals from midfield


Tactics have become so mixed up these days, especially with the way Barcelona play, that it is hard to tell where midfield ends and attack begins.

Let's leave that debate for another day.

United's style is evolving, and in some ways resembles Barcelona's but mixes the best of the old with the best of the new.

There has been a sense for some time that Sir Alex wants to play a "total football" type of approach. With Barcelona, their nominal six midfielders revolve and cycle around while keeping some sort of shape.

Even before the game last night he described Kagawa as a "good footballer." From the Daily Mail:

'The thing that's quite impressed me is that every exercise we do on the training ground, he's never needed it to be explained.

'After one demonstration, he joins in as if he's known the language forever. Of course, we know he doesn't speak the language, but it isn't a problem.

'It just goes to show that a good footballer can pick up exactly what's needed. He's been fantastic in that respect. I've been quite surprised at that.'


How good can it get?

Shinji Kagawa was a "shoo-in" for MVP last night. His work-rate was phenomenal; he covered every blade of grass from box to box; scored the winning goal; showed tricks and flicks; received and never gave the ball away. 

He would have stood out in any match on any stage.

After last night's match, interviewed on MUTV, Michael Carrick referred to his "understanding, intelligence and technique..and he's certainly going to get better..."

The organised defences at Ajax Cape Town and especially Shanghai were an example of what United can expect this coming season.

Bilbao and Wigan were just two teams which showed last season that work-rate and flooding defensive cover around the man with the ball could disrupt United's attacking style. 

Apparently, Brendan Rodgers wants his Liverpool side to win the ball back within seven seconds next season.

United have always regarded attack as the best form of defence. With Vidic back and another year under the belts of Jonny Evans, Chris Smalling and Jones, there will be less problems at the back than the injury-ridden season just gone.


Counter-attack is a staple at Old Trafford. United can scare teams with the pace at which they break, particularly while Ronaldo was there.

Kagawa has pace and skill at speed. If you examine Sir Alex's recent signings, they all have these attributes in abundance. Sadly, that's why Berbatov stands out. He may have deceptive speed, but doens't look like he's got pace and seems to slow the game down.

You can see with the new recruits coming in from the Academy that all United's younger players can receive and give the ball at speed.

The style has become much more fluid and interchangeable. OK, so Kagawa and Sir Alex agree that No. 10 is his best position, but he was back on the edge of his box, out on the wings and through the middle last night. And he scores goals!

Its all too easy to go overboard with a new signing. Many people were disappointed that Eden Hazard slipped away to Chelsea. Kagawa looks at least as good in every respect.

On the evidence of the preseason tour so far, United may have nicked the signing of the season. Used to playing in the physical Bundesliga—and scoring goals—Kagawa looks to be the complete footballer.

He can be a legend at Old Trafford, in Japan of course, and even in China!


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