Manchester United’s Japanese metronome Shinji Kagawa has begun to hit the right notes for champions-elect Manchester United, most notably with a hat-trick against Norwich City in what was their last league outing at Old Trafford. 

While injury has plagued his debut season for the Red Devils, he has still managed to rack up 11 appearances (and one substitute appearance) and has scored five goals and recorded two assists. 

His contributions could not have come at a more opportune time, what with Ashley Young having only three assists and no goals in the league, and Antonio Valencia having an almost identical record of no goals and just four assists in the league this season. It therefore makes perfect sense for Sir Alex to deploy Kagawa on the wing, but in future what is the ideal way to make use of his immense talents?

I came up with three possible scenarios for Sir Alex to solve this welcome headache:

1. With this first scenario, Kagawa would be deployed as one half of a midfield duo with mainstay Michael Carrick. Now while this may not be his natural position, it might be one that he may be able to pull off. It also represents one way in which he and Wayne Rooney can play together. 

While it, of course, can be seen as an ultra-attacking formation, it would however mean that Carrick may be overworked in the middle as Kagawa isn’t exactly known for his defensive abilities. This would therefore bring Kagawa’s defensive abilities into question, and may leave the midfield unbalanced as Carrick may be left with a lot to do to ensure the team maintains midfield dominance in the game.

Verdict: Possible, but highly risky

Ideal for: When Kagawa comes on as a substitute, or when United need goals late on in a game.

2. This second scenario would see Kagawa being used in his preferred position, in the hole behind the main man Robin van Persie. United would also have their own version of a Santi Cazorla/Juan Mata/David Silva type of player that their rivals Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester City rely so heavily on. The midfield trio of Kagawa-Carrick-Cleverley certainly is well-balanced, and it would contribute positively to United’s quest to dominate an opponent in midfield as Kagawa likes to pass the ball short. 

Perhaps too often we have seen the Red Devils starting a game strongly only to end the game hanging on to a lead, and maybe playing Kagawa in the hole would help them in maintaining the ball and maintaining control over opponents. Of course the elephant in the room here is the absence of one Wayne Rooney, but should Sir Alex ever want to rotate his squad and give the Englishman a rest, then why not?

Verdict: Best position for Kagawa to play.

Ideal for: Squad rotation.

3. The third possibility would see Kagawa playing on the left of midfield, in place of Ashley Young. This is what Sir Alex Ferguson is currently using in his attempts to overcome his wingers’ shortcomings and to accommodate all of his star players especially Rooney and Van Persie in one side. It of course has its benefits, for example taking advantage of a player who seems to be on form in Kagawa. 

Under this formation also, Kagawa is allowed a free roam whenever Manchester United are on the ball, thus he sometimes drifts into midfield to help out Carrick and Cleverley. The free role also makes him difficult for the opponents to pick up, which gives United something different going forward. Him playing on the wing also gives Evra ample space to get forward down the left channel. On the flip side, however, it does leave United unbalanced both going forward and defensively.

Verdict: Most practical formation as far as playing both Kagawa and Rooney.

Ideal for: When United play opponents lower down the league table.


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