Without a doubt, Manchester United gave their most impressive performance of the season against Bayer Leverkusen last night.
The German outfit are no slackers - they're the second best in the Bundesliga right now. And they were taken apart mercilessly, ruthlessly, and beautifully by United.
It wasn't a classic United performance with flowing football and aesthetically pleasing artistic dribbles. It was a gritty and hard fought win. There was a point in the game at which United were passing at an accuracy of less than 70%.
Still, they looked more the team of last season - one in which everybody on the field contributes to the goal tally: even players from the other team. While Wayne Rooney deserves a massive amount of credit for his hand in every one of the three goals, the most heartening sight for United was was definitely a revitalised Shinji Kagawa.
To put it simply, he was sublime: fighting, running, and finally playing truly penetrating passes. His biggest criticism since his arrival at United has been that he has dawdled on the ball excessively, dribbling where he should be passing. All those vices disappeared against Leverkusen.
In a team missing their top scorer, captain and midfield general, Kagawa really stepped up. The vigilance with which he tracked the Leverkusen midfield saw him mirror Carrick's role in the team, breaking up play and spreading the ball when necessary. Along with a timeless Giggs, Kagawa dominated the midfield. He was the cool-head, picking up the ball high-pressure situations in his own half and moving it astutely up the field to the strikers.
His contribution up top was no less. He had a big hand in the first two goals, setting up the move for Valencia's finish and winning the free-kick from which the own goal was scored. The icing on the cake was his pass to Rooney for the fourth. His chip completely took apart the Leverkusen defence. Even more importantly, he was a real presence in the final third, involving Nani and Valencia with short cutting passes to the wings. When necessary, he was even confident enough to take a crack at goal. Its ironic that the revitalised Kagawa appears once again on German soil given his past at Dortmund.
It's not a coincidence that the return of this Kagawa coincided with with his return to his number 10 position. If anything, his performance against Leverkusen elucidated the fact that it's a mistake to put him on the wing. There is no way Moyes would ever sacrifice Van Persie, but a Kagawa like the one who showed up on Wednesday would walk into any team. Moyes has a Class A problem on his hands.
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