An hour prior to the start of the Community Shield clash against Wigan Athletic, United released information on its website that Antonio Valencia was reverting to his previous kit number, 25. Quite clearly, he deemed his shift to the iconic number seven as a spate of bad luck for his performance dipped sharply. But what has all this got to do with the case of Shinji Kagawa?
Well as is the case, Kagawa wears the jersey number 26, which has seen its fair share of bad luck for United players. Going all the way back to the inception of the Premier League, the dubious kit number has been adorned by Chris Casper, Massimo Taibi, Mark Wilson, Daniel Pugh, Phil Bardsley, Gabriel Obertan and now Shinji Kagawa.
Let’s just say the rest of them are known more for their gaffes and of having the distinction of being not so promising youth products who couldn’t step up to the top level. Everyone will remember Massimo Taibi’s shocking mistake against Matt Le Tissier’s otherwise harmless attempt at goal.
Keeping Kagawa aside, the rest have a combined appearance tally of 32 games over a period of 18 seasons.
At a club where wearing number seven is like a legendary status, the number 26 seems to be the exact opposite; total doom. But Kagawa is a different story altogether, or is he?
He has played no way near to the level and promise that he showed while at Borussia Dortmund. A lot has been said and written as to how he has not been able to adapt to the Premier League and how United have not tapped his potential fully by not playing him in his favoured position, an advanced playmaker playing just behind the striker.
Technically very adept and his ability to play on either flanks, saw him being used by Sir Alex more on the left than in the centre. He wasn’t able to get his foot in and find the form that brought success at Signal Iduna Park. But football is not just about technicalities, tactics and positions; it’s a gamut of emotions. A player or a team plays with panache from confidence generated in the dressing room. At Dortmund, he was fully backed by Klopp and his support staff.
Post his switch to Old Trafford and greater competition for his position has seen him being sidelined to the bench more often than not. Last season, he was never given a run of games in the same position to generate any kind of form, Sir Alex trifled him on the left, right or centre.
But his best game in a United jersey came when he was played in a central position against Norwich; driving in late into the box to get two goals of a first hat-trick by an Asian player in the Premier League.
Manchester United have been looking for a creative midfielder who passes, shoots, plays through balls and the lots. The answer has all along been at the club throughout the last term in the form of Kagawa. His agility and the ability to pick out pockets of spaces in the final third when there are none is impeccable. His composure on the ball is unquestionable. Two goals of that hat-trick were scored with ability second to none. Be it running with the ball or off it, his timing is always spot on.
The diagonal unpredictable runs he makes can draw the best of defenders out position and add to that his sharp movement, you have quite a dynamo. Kagawa is the kind of player that every football team craves for, a talent that is currently being wasted on the Old Trafford bench.
It may seem superstitious to link his poor performance to the doom that is number 26 but another season like the last one may well put curtains to his time at Old Trafford. All he needs is a bit more confidence in him from David Moyes, a bit more vocal support from the Stretford Enders and he can be a force to reckon with.
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