As Manchester United continue their search for a central midfielder Louis Van Gaal has made a significant change to one of his own players who could fill the void, Shinji Kagawa.
Only two games in to his managing reign at United, the 62 year-old has made rapid changes to a side that looked broken last season displaying a 3-4-3 formation using a #10 and 2 strikers.
Defeating Roma 3-2 on Saturday night, Van Gaal and his men remain unbeaten so far after thrashing LA Galaxy 7-0 in their first game. The change in formation has worked for the Dutchmen and one significant move is one of the Japanese playmaker.
Kagawa, 25, who was once one of the most talented number 10’s in the world at Borussia Dortmund scoring 21 goals in 46 appearances, signed for the Red Devils in 2012 for £17m. After suffering an injury during his first season, Kagawa showed glimpses of his talent with a hat-trick against Norwich City.
Sir Alex Ferguson then retired and David Moyes never saw the ability that Ferguson did in the playmaker, leaving Kagawa on the fringes during last season’s disastrous campaign.
So to the new season and Kagawa has been playing in a deeper role trying to orchestrate attacks and dictate play during his two second half appearances under Van Gaal. Kagawa had never played in this position prior to a brief appearance there under Ryan Giggs last year. He has taken to the role well displaying a high pass completion and enabling the attackers to find space with his ability to run and dribble with the ball.
Fans of United took to Twitter during his recent display and many have spoke about the new role Van Gaal has given the midfielder:
@SagarGGMU: “Van Gaal trying out Kagawa in the midfield role as his pace and ability to run with the ball is imperative for CM’s in 3-5-2, might work.”
@AarinH2: “Not looking good for Kagawa if Louis Van Gaal plays 5-3-2, only 3 slots for him at the most.”
@hjrakesh: “Kagawa performance at CM was impressive again.”
It seems with Juan Mata occupying the role Wesley Sneijder played for the Netherlands at the World Cup, Kagawa will have to find game time elsewhere and central midfield seems that area at the moment.
With Michael Carrick out injured and Darren Fletcher still recovering his full potential, Kagawa could become an important player in Van Gaal’s system which has seen new signing Ander Herrera flourish thus far.
A formation that suits players who like to retain the ball, Kagawa rarely loses possession and his quick incisive passing generates attacks on the break. Watching the last two pre-season games, Kagawa has dropped deep to receive possession before using both feet to spread the ball wide and in some cases through the middle to the front man.
But similar to Mata and Wayne Rooney, the Japanese star likes to make runs and score goals which could leave us exploited against the bigger teams in the Premier League, but that’s where a defensive midfielder could slot in.
Looking at potential signings, Nigel De Jong would be a good fit to a new look United. With Carrick out injured, Juventus man Arturo Vidal has been suggested along with Daley Blind – with all three capable of doing a defensive job.
Carrick, 33, who has been a key figure in United’s recent success is recovering from ankle surgery and back-up for his position is needed, especially at the highest level where Chelsea, Manchester City and Arsenal have all strengthened
United take on Inter Milan on Tuesday and it would be good to see Kagawa start. Partnering him with Fletcher could be ideal with the Scotsmen sitting in front of the back four against the Italian side. Herrera has started both games and a switch in tactics could allow Van Gaal to try a new combination.
Van Gaal, who was disappointed with United after the 3-2 win against Roma said: “Ander Herrera, Juan Mata and Shinji Kagawa are my best passers at the club and they failed today.”
Already highlighting these three as key players, Kagawa could have a major role this season especially with the manager knowing about him during his time at Dortmund, where Van Gaal was in charge of Bayern Munich.
Hopefully we see Kagawa feature more before United’s league opener against Swansea City and if he does prove to be a natural in midfield, I look forward to seeing him Mata, Herrera and Carrick linking up throughout this season.