Shinji Kagawa will hope to banish the memories of another insipid season by putting himself in the shop window at the World Cup in Brazil. While the press should be cooing over his performances, the Manchester United man’s media coverage has been limited to unhappiness at being a fringe player and his alleged relationship with a porn star. Brazil will provide him with the perfect platform to show what he is capable of and engineer a move from Old Trafford.
Since joining Manchester United from Borussia Dortmund in 2012, Kagawa has been used sparingly both the manager who signed him, Sir Alex Ferguson, and his current boss, David Moyes. Despite an acclaimed performance in the 5-0 victory over Bayer Leverkusen in the Champions League earlier this season, he was only used as a second-half substitute in the 1-1 draw with Bayern Munich last night.
Yet when it comes to the international arena, the story could not be more different. Kagawa is a hero in Japan. His record of 17 goals in 54 matches for the national side is respectable for a midfielder and he was instrumental in qualification, scoring in both matches against Jordan. In fact such is the interest in Kagawa, Japanese journalists fly to England on a weekly basis to cover him, knowing that the chances of him playing are minimal.
The English media is usually unforgiving when a top player fails to make the starting line-up but Kagawa has been left alone because it is clear he is not to blame. His runs from deep do not fit easily into United’s style of play. In the absence of a recognized ball-winner and an abundance of wingers, attacking midfielders and deep-lying strikers, Kagawa, like Juan Mata and Wayne Rooney, has often found himself playing out of position. Now with the rise of Adnan Januzaj, who is deployed as both a winger and a playmaker, the future looks far from rosy for Kagawa.
His situation is not too dissimilar to that of ex-United and Argentina midfielder, Juan Sebastián Verón who was eye-catching in European competition but struggled to adapt to the Red Devils’ style. Kagawa has not had enough playing time this season to show other teams what he can offer and engineer a move, but playing every match in Brazil will change that.
One season as a bit-part player is understandable, especially when the man in question has moved from a foreign league. However, two seasons on the bench is not acceptable for a player of Kagawa’s stature and ambition. He knows it and has not been backward in coming forward when asked by the world’s media why he does not feature more for his club side. If he can put in solid performances in the World Cup, he will either prove Moyes wrong or engineer a move to another top club. Another season on the bench just will not do for Japan’s favorite son.
World Cup Preview is a daily series providing commentary and analysis of the teams and players participating in this year’s World Cup in Brazil.
Commentary by Robert Shepherd