Manchester United

Is There a Way Back to Borussia Dortmund for Manchester United's Shinji Kagawa?

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 23:  Shinji Kagawa of Manchester United in action during the UEFA Champions League Group A match between Manchester United and Real Sociedad at Old Trafford on October 23, 2013 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
Alex Livesey/Getty Images
Allan JiangTransfers CorrespondentNovember 11, 2013

In the mind of Manchester United manager David Moyes, Shinji Kagawa has already been replaced by 18-year-old wunderkind Adnan Januzaj, who has scored twice and registered an assist in the Premier League, whereas Kagawa has yet to open his account for United this season.

Everyone knows Moyes would not shed a tear if Kagawa rejoined Borussia Dortmund, whereas there were tears of sadness from Dortmund manager Jurgen Klopp when he accepted Kagawa's decision to become a United player. 

"We cried for 20 minutes, in each others' arms," Klopp said, via Donald McRae at The Guardian. "Now he plays 20 minutes at Manchester United on the left wing."

Klopp gained Kagawa's trust by returning him to the starting XI in his second season at Dortmund, after a broken foot suffered during the 2011 Asian Cup forced him to miss 15 of the last 16 league games in his debut season. 

"[Kagawa's] an offensive midfielder with one of the best noses for goal," Klopp said, via Donald McRae at The Guardian.

Kagawa validated Klopp's faith as he drove deep into the defensive half of opposing teams, scoring 13 goals and registering eight assists in the 2011-12 Bundesliga season. 

With the all-round right-sided midfielder Jakub Blaszczykowski, who was receiving an extended run in the starting lineup due to Mario Goetze's injury problems, and the gritty Kevin Grosskreutz on the left, Klopp ensured Kagawa had the complementary pieces to extract world-class play in a central position.

Kagawa, Blaszczykowski and Grosskreutz combined to score 26 goals and accumulated 24 assists in the championship-winning season. 

SEVILLE, SPAIN - DECEMBER 15:  Shinji Kagawa of Borussia Dortmund (L) celebrates with his team mates after scoring the opening goal during the UEFA Europa League group J match between Sevilla and Borussia Dortmund at Estadio Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan on Decem
David Ramos/Getty Images

From a defensive perspective, Kagawa knew he lagged behind his teammates in situations without the ball as he was not a willing tackler in Klopp's strategy of pressing as a unit. 

Moritz Leitner, who only started 13.3 percent of games, averaged the same amount of tackles per league game as Kagawa (1.2).

You know what Klopp did?

He shrugged his shoulders and did not push Kagawa to expend energy in winning back possession as Blaszczykowski and Grosskreutz, now a right-back, took on added defensive duties. 

This further endeared Kagawa to Klopp, who was fair-minded, while Moyes is the opposite. 

  • Kagawa has either started on the bench or been subbed out seven times in nine games under Moyes.
  • Moyes is playing Kagawa on the left instead of in the No. 10 position. 
  • Kagawa has been left on the bench in five league games plus a UEFA Champions League match.

Kagawa has forced himself into having the same mentality as his compatriot, Atsuto Uchida, Schalke's starting right-back—tackle and, when in doubt, tackle. 

Shinji Kagawa's Defensive Output
LEAGUE ONLYTackles Per GameInterceptions Per Game
Kagawa (Klopp BVB; 2010-11)0.60.3
Kagawa (Klopp BVB; 2011-12)1.20.5
Kagawa (SAF MU; 2012-13)0.90.6
Kagawa (Moyes MU; 2013-14)2.52.0
WhoScored
First 8 GamesGoalsAssists
Kagawa (Klopp BVB; 2010-11)51
Kagawa (Klopp BVB; 2011-12)31
Kagawa (SAF MU; 2012-13) 23
Kagawa (Moyes MU; 2013-14)00

There is a clear link between Kagawa's increased defensive workload and his lack of product under Moyes. 

When you think about it, Kagawa is getting Bilyaletdinov'd.

"There was a whole set of circumstances against me," Diniyar Bilyaletdinov, a £9 million flop under Moyes, said via The Telegraph. "The team [Everton] has problems with creating scoring chances, and converting them."

So, how about a return to Dortmund for Kagawa? 

"It's a bit difficult to speak with him [Kagawa] directly, largely because his German hasn't dramatically improved while he's been in England," Klopp said, via Dietmar Nolte at Bundesliga.com. "Talking to him on the phone isn't what you'd call a piece of cake."

The fact that Klopp is still making an effort to talk to Kagawa, who isn't even a Dortmund player, proves the two have something Kagawa and Moyes lack—a brotherly bond. 

"We still keep in touch. I'm in regular touch with his interpreter. And I often have a few words with Shinji's agent, Thomas Kroth," Klopp said, via Dietmar Nolte at Bundesliga.com. "Believe me, I'm always right in the picture about what the lad's up to."

LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 21:  Borussia Dortmund coach Jurgen Klopp (L) and midfielder Nuri Sahin face the media during a Borussia Dortmund press conference ahead of the UEFA Champions League Group F match against Arsenal at Emirates Stadium on October 21
Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

The major obstacle facing Kagawa's return is the issue Nuri Sahin had: no longer being a guaranteed starter.  

Ilkay Gundogan, Sebastian Kehl and Sven Bender had something Sahin didn't: match fitness.

Sahin started seven of his first eight games back at Dortmund on the bench. 

His big break came in the leadup to Dortmund's game against Freiburg. 

Kehl and Bender were injured, so Sahin started alongside Gundogan. Ninety minutes later, Dortmund ran out 5-1 victors with two goals and an assist from Sahin. 

This season, Sahin has taken advantage of Gundogan being injured to start 11 of Dortmund's first 12 league games. 

The player standing in Kagawa's way is Dortmund's most expensive signing ever in the €27.5 million valued Henrikh Mkhitaryan, who scored 29 goals for Shakhtar Donetsk last season. 

Shinji Kagawa vs. Henrikh Mkhitaryan
LEAGUE ONLY (Debut BVB Season)Kagawa (2010-11)Mkhitaryan (2013-14)
Shots Per Goal4.68.0
Key Passes Per Game1.32.2
Tackles Per Game0.62.0
Interceptions Per Game0.30.4
WhoScored

After not getting a run under Jose Mourinho and then the early termination of a loan spell at Liverpool, Sahin had grovelled his way back to Klopp.

Look at Sahin now. 

He's currently Kicker magazine's sixth-highest rated midfielder.

Returning to Klopp will be more beneficial for Kagawa than having his career ruined by Moyes. 

Klopp should send the song Skylar Grey - Coming Home to Kagawa's email, reminding him it will work out: "Let the rain wash away all the pain of yesterday. I know my kingdom awaits and they've forgiven my mistakes."

Kagawa's first mistake was leaving Klopp. 

His second mistake was rejecting the chance to rejoin Dortmund, per Sky Sports; July 30, 2013. 

Should there be another offer from Dortmund, Kagawa's decision had better not force Klopp to send out a text asking why with eight question marks

 

 

Statistics via WhoScored, FFT Stats Zone, Squawka and Transfermarkt
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Twitter: @allanjiangLIVE

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