As Juan Mata edges ever closer to completing his move to Manchester United, per the club’s official website manutd.com, questions have naturally emerged as to how the Spaniard will be integrated into the Old Trafford set-up.
But we must also consider players who will see decreased game time as a result of this deal and the potential implications this deal may have on their future. Most notably, perhaps, the future of Shinji Kagawa, whose career in the North-West of England looks to be coming to an end.
The Japanese international’s Old Trafford stint has been riddled with inconsistency, injury and loss of form to date. They are all factors which have manifested into an 18-month stretch in which an obviously talented player has flattered to deceive in the harsh Premier League landscape.
But despite his frustrations, according to the player’s agent Thomas Kroth, he won’t be going anywhere this window, per Sky Sports.
Kroth stated “at this moment I am sure Shinji will stay. There has been no contact and so it is just rumours.”
Pressed on whether any deal for Mata would effect Kagawa’s decision, he said, “No, it is my opinion that he will stay."
In short, things aren’t looking overly optimistic for Kagawa when it comes to his Old Trafford future. Signed from Borussia Dortmund in the summer of 2012 harbouring a reputation as one of Europe’s most promising No. 10s, he has not been able to nail down a regular position in the Manchester United first team.
Granted, he was often played out of position during his first campaign, which did plenty to rile his former manager Jurgen Klopp, per David Kent of the Daily Mail.
But in truth, even in those appearances during his maiden season, he served up little to suggest he was ready to play in a central role in the dynamic environment of a Premier League midfield. He cut a frustrated figure at times and struggled to adapt to the abrasive, high-tempo pace of top-level English football.
After an opening campaign of learning and adapting, he was widely expected to shine in his second season at the club. But even under new boss David Moyes, he has yet to make a major impression.
Wayne Rooney’s early-season form meant he has been undroppable in the No. 10 position, and whenever Kagawa has featured, it has rarely been in his preferred position. According to Who Scored?, he has started just four games in the central attacking midfield position, compared to seven games in a wide-left role.
But with the emergence of Adnan Januzaj as a young talent ready-made for the first team, not to mention the imminent signing of Mata, Kagawa’s opportunities look as though they are going to be increasingly limited during the season run-in, especially with United out of both domestic cup competitions.
He may still feature in the Champions League with Mata cup-tied, but with Moyes likely to favour an attacking four of the Spaniard, Rooney, Januzaj and Robin van Persie, you have to wonder how Kagawa will force his way into the team.
You can apportion some of the blame to Moyes and his predecessor for not giving him a run in the team in his best position. But the simple fact is that when you come to a club like Manchester United, you need to take your opportunities when you get them. And whilst his talent is undeniable, Kagawa hasn’t done that.
Whilst his agent suggests he won’t be leaving the club this window, you have to wonder if Kagawa will be willing to hang around with a World Cup around the corner, at which he will be a key figure in the Japanese challenge. Could we yet see some developments in the final knockings of this January window?