Kagawa determined to make mark at United

Posted by Mark Payne

Man United's Shinji Kagawa does his thing against West BromGettyImagesShinji Kagawa: Back from injury and ready for a run of games

Nobody knows the solution to the problem yet. It is an issue that hasn’t needed addressing for two months now but it can be ignored no longer. Shinji Kagawa is back from injury and is staking his claim for a first-team place. Having started against both Liverpool and Tottenham, United’s front man is determined to get a run in the team, and somebody is going to have to make way for him.

Kagawa has had an interrupted start to his Manchester United career. After twisting a knee against Braga in October, he has had to sit out two months of the campaign as fellow new boy Robin van Persie has stormed to the forefront of the team and driven them to the top of the league.

When asked this week about his progress at United Kagawa cut a determined figure. Whilst acknowledging his surroundings, the word “frustrated” rang loudly and clearly from the interview. Obviously, that lengthy spell on the sidelines has left the Japanese international with something of a point to prove. His first order of business is to make a place for himself in the team.

Apart from his injury, the main thing holding Kagawa back is the lack of a clear position to play him in. In the number 10 position he scored 29 goals in 71 games for Borussia Dortmund and was named in the Bundesliga team of the year in 2011. United have been played with two distinct line-ups for the majority of this season, 4-3-3 or the dreaded ‘diamond’, and neither of them caters to that role particularly well.

Kagawa knows that Manchester United are unlikely to start building their tactics around him and talks of “doing his best for the team” but his talents are such that they demand accommodation. His passing accuracy is incredibly high, 93% against Tottenham, and his ability to play the ball at speed and with imagination is an asset that cannot be taught.

At present, he needs a bit more playing time to forge an understanding with his team-mates. When it becomes apparent who he dovetails most incisively with, United fans will start to see the best of him. His most profitable work in a United shirt so far has come in tandem with Tom Cleverley and Michael Carrick, which indicates a willingness to drop back in search of the ball and allow more established teammates, such as Wayne Rooney, to patrol the forward ground.

All of this makes Kagawa a great team-mate, a factor that was no doubt considered when he was named Asian Player of the Year in 2012. However, selflessness does not seem to be enough for this player, “I am not satisfied yet,” Kagawa says. As soon as he finds his feet at United, that frustration should disappear.

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