Manchester United look set to announce their first big signing of the summer in Shinji Kagawa. The 23-year-old will become only the fifth Japanese player to move to the Premier League if he completes his potential £17million transfer from Borussia Dortmund, but he could be the one to leave the biggest mark. Sir Alex Ferguson is clearly interested in re-vamping his squad, but what will the Japanese add to United?
Kagawa was pivotal as Dortmund stormed to their second consecutive Bundesliga title last season, contributing 13 goals and nine assists. His performances helped make BVB the most prolific team in the country as they went on a record-breaking 28-game undefeated run, a streak that remains open to improvement when the clubs reconvene next season.
The Japanese was burdened with the vast majority of playmaking responsibilities due to an injury to Mario Gotze that kept the talented youngster sidelined for four months of the season. And how he flourished. Kagawa’s play was breathtaking at times as he showed immense vision to pick out a pass when under pressure from the defenders. He was heavily involved in everything positive that BVB did and no doubt played a role in the creation of a greater number of goals than the nine in which he supplied with the final pass.
It is therefore easy to see why Ferguson was drawn to the player. His attributes would provide Manchester United with a player that they have been absent in recent years. The ability to get his foot on the ball and scythe through defences in the final third will provide a welcome new dimension to the way in which the Red Devils play.
Ferguson’s side became rather predictable in the second half of last season as they continually spread the ball into wide areas and looked to get the ball in the box. Kagawa however offers a direct route through the centre of the park. He showed a desire to keep the ball on the deck and cut open defences with a piercing pass or a coruscating run.
To get the best from the 23-year-old Ferguson would be best served by switching to the 4-2-3-1 formation that he operated under for Jurgen Klopp’s side. Sitting behind Wayne Rooney, their prospective intricate link-up play should really excite the fans. Kagawa will also bring out the best from the wide players such as Antonio Valencia and Nani as he will regularly supply them with the ball and make himself open to receive the short pass as often as possible.
However, this tactical change could force the hugely impressive Danny Welbeck out wide or possibly onto the bench. Given Nani’s inconsistencies in the last 12 months it could open the door to the youngster on the left. It is not out of the question as if Patrice Evra was given license to join the attack regularly, Welbeck could drift inside to a more comforable position. The two holding midfielders could therefore cover the full-backs whilst also relieving Kagawa from the majority of defensive duties.
The Japanese’s potential downfall may come in a lack of Champions League experience. Dortmund’s return to the competition last season was a bit of a disaster but they were a young team and that perhaps worked against them. However, he will be a stronger player as a result and possibly more determined than ever to prove his quality at the highest level.
Kagawa is more than just a signing to sell shirts in Asia, he is the man who could revolutionise the way in which United play. An astute signing, fans of the club can look forward to some far more attack-minded, fluid football at Old Trafford next season.