Updated: Wednesday, 1st April 2020 @ 9:59am

Debate: Manchester United’s attacking impotence is down to Shinji Kagawa’s conspicuous absence

Debate: Manchester United’s attacking impotence is down to Shinji Kagawa’s conspicuous absence

Comment by Sean Butters

As we enter the fourth match day of the new season, the confusion over the whereabouts of Manchester United’s Shinji Kagawa is starting to boil over.

While a place in every Premier League team must be earned, Manchester United’s ultra-competitive dressing room is a different beast; however, despite this, Kagawa would still be well within his rights to feel aggrieved at his omission from United’s early season fixtures.

Putting Kagawa’s performances from last season under the microscope the only glaring hole in the Japanese star’s game is his slight frame –early on he struggled to hold off the towering centre-backs who make mincemeat out of forwards that don’t assert themselves.

However, a real indication of Kagawa’s quality is that, even with his relative physical weakness, he was able to score twice and provide an assist in his first six games.

It’s totally acceptable that Kagawa’s appearance in the Community Shield was limited to just seven minutes considering Moyes’ desire to ease the player back into action after extended leave, but what has followed makes far less sense.

Three games into the season and not one appearance, even as a substitute without any indication as to why. At least he was on the bench for the first two, but did not even make the squad against Liverpool.

Perhaps Moyes, like a lot of people, sees Kagawa as a player for games that require a deft touch but Swansea, Chelsea and Liverpool are hardly Stoke City. Regardless, the best technical players in England – a group in which Kagawa undoubtedly finds himself in – are nimble enough to get around the reckless lunges and overuse of elbows that their less talented counterparts choose to employ.

With this in mind it appears that Kagawa’s ostensible physical deficiencies are not a major problem.

Even they were, his quick and delicate touches on the ball should negate any reservations Moyes may have, and the recent addition of Marouane Fellaini should be more than enough to make up for what Kagawa lacks physically.

Maybe we need some expert wisdom.

Take Michael Owen for example, who made his view on Kagawa very clear at Thursday night’s Football Writers’ Association Live event, saying that Moyes is ‘missing a trick’ if Kagawa doesn’t feature more often. From the subsequent nodding of the rest of the panel, which comprised top football writers and former England international Alan Stubbs, it can be deduced that Owen is not alone in his opinion.

What really grates about the whole situation is the absence of Wayne Rooney, the very player whose position Kagawa thrives in.

The problem with Rooney is that even when he is in bad form his manager has to be pretty fearless to omit him from the starting line-up. But, instead of taking what may be a rare chance to give Kagawa a run out, Moyes has opted to play the ageing Ryan Giggs.

The plan worked against Swansea, but in the following games United lacked the penetration and guile to unlock either Chelsea of Liverpool's defence.

Moyes could have brought on Kagawa against Chelsea and United would have had those little through balls and intricate passes needed to overcome a typically staunch Jose Mourinho defence – he opted instead to bring on Ashley Young, who is surely only still at Old Trafford because of the ridiculous amount paid for him two years ago and has been utterly useless in both his appearances so far.

Kagawa is the only player who should have benefited from Rooney’s absence and is, absurdly, the only one who hasn’t.

Even if Rooney was available some time on the side-lines would be good for him (knock him down a peg or two), and if not good for him then for Kagawa, who hasn’t made the mistake of trying to leave the club twice in three years.

There is also no uncertainty over whether Kagawa will still be at United next summer, or even next January… though, if he doesn’t get more playing time next season’s tragedy could be the departure of a truly gifted footballer. 

Image courtesy of MUTV via Youtube

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