Manchester United playmaker wasted on wing

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Football News

When Manchester United announced the signing of Shinji Kagawa in June 2012, one question was asked more than most: where will he play?

The Japan international had performed so spectacularly for Borussia Dortmund as the fulcrum of the side just behind the team's main striker, Robert Lewandowski, in the No. 10 role. Yet it was also noted that, when playing for his country, he was often deployed from the left wing where he was less effective.

The 24-year-old, who always had an intense desire to play in the Premier League, was expected to play in that playmaker role behind one of Wayne Rooney, Javier Hernandez, Dimitar Berbatov or Danny Welbeck. However, the shock signing of Robin van Persie from Arsenal two months later changed that, and impacted Kagawa's role in his debut season at the club.

Sir Alex Ferguson had an unenviable - or, in the eyes of most of his Premier League counterparts, enviable - task on his hands to fit Kagawa, Rooney, Van Persie into the same side and, on occasions, understandably opted to sacrifice the Japan star - playing him from the left rather than through the middle.

The result was hardly a surprise: Kagawa often cut an isolated figure on the left flank, unable to make his presence felt in a position which clearly doesn't suit him.

United have always relied on fast wingers delivering good service for the forwards, but Kagawa is a tricky one-touch footballer who finds pockets of space around the penalty area and plays intricate passes. In others words, nothing like a traditional winger.

Ferguson increasingly came to realise this when he opted to select Kagawa in his favoured No. 10 role - the Japan star often left a lasting impression, such as in March's 4-0 home win over Norwich City in which he netted a hat-trick of classy finishes - but the legendary Scot could hardly be blamed because of the amount of options at his disposal and the difficulties of keeping players happy.

Injuries certainly hindered Kagawa's chances of nailing down the attacking midfield role on a permanent basis, while some of his displays away from home were sometimes disappointing, which is to be expected of a player adapting to a new league.

But with a years' experience under his belt, Kagawa could become a key player for the Premier League champions this season - providing David Moyes keeps him away from the left wing.

A run of games in his favoured position could see Kagawa replicate his Borussia Dortmund form. In short, he'd feel like a brand new signing - and an extremely talented one at that.

In order to make Kagawa feel at home at Old Trafford, Moyes must accommodate him in the No. 10 role.

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Shinji Kagawa
Premier League
Manchester United

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