Shinji Kagawa’s arrival from Borussia Dortmund this summer has now been overshadowed by Van Persie’s arrival but it could well be the Japanese international who helps United to wrestle back the title from rivals City.
For several years now Manchester United fans have been lamenting the absence of an attacking central midfielder and past years have seen heightened speculation with Wesley Sneijder fail to materialise. This year, Sir Alex Ferguson finally managed to force through the signing of an attacking midfielder in Kagawa despite reported reservations from his United superiors that the player did not fulfil the mould or quality of a Red Devils player.
Yet, Ferguson has thoroughly examined the player throughout the past two seasons, including witnessing first hand his talents in the 5-2 victory of Bayern Munich in the German Cup final, and was able to purchase the 23-year-old for a reduced £14m due to the player only having a year left on his contract at Dortmund.
For Dortmund however, the fee represents a vast profit on the €350,000 they paid for him two seasons ago from J-League side Cerezo Osaka and Shinji Kagawa’s immediate impact on the club’s fortunes is an indicator of his raw talent and attitude to perform in a foreign environment from a tender age.
After four years in Japan’s professional league, Kagawa made the move to Germany at 21-years-old and was one of a number of young arrivals at Dortmund who revived a club that finished 5th in the 09/10 season into league winners the following. Robert Lewandowski and full-back Lukasz Piszczek arrived and the summer also marked Mario Gotze’s promotion into the senior squad.
Even amongst these signings it was Kagawa who stood out in the first half of the season as Dortmund’s star performer. Despite missing the second half of the season due to an injury picked up in Japan’s win of the Asian Cup, Kagawa still finished as the club’s second top league scorer scoring the same number of goals as Lewandowski despite the Polish striker playing 15 more games. His contribution to Dortmund’s successful campaign was adjudged to have been so substantial in half a season that he was named in Bundesliga’s Best XI team.
A return to fitness in his second season saw Kagawa further improve and compensate for the loss of Nuri Sahin. The Dortmund team ran away with the league with a record high 81 points amassed in the 34-game Bundesliga season and Kagawa once again finished as the club’s second top goal scorer with 13 goals. Perhaps more impressive this season however was his contribution to Dortmund’s collective play as he laid on 12 assists and only in his second season in Europe, Kagawa’s temperament to perform in major games became apparent as evidenced by his one goal and one assist performance in the German Cup victory.
Kagawa’s rapid progression to the heights of European football will only continue and at just 23-years-old he has proven himself to be one of football’s rising talents. At Manchester United he has a platform and stage to further impress and consequently he will contribute to United’s success accordingly. Early signs are that he already has the confidence of Sir Alex Ferguson whilst Wayne Rooney and Rio Ferdinand have praised Kagawa’s installation at United.
Shinji Kagawa’s understated rise to the top of European football may be downplayed in comparison to Eden Hazard’s or Robin Van Persie’s but the Japanese’s signing could eventually manifest to be the shrewder piece of business.
United fans finally have their attacking midfielder and they should be confident Kagawa will only improve in the Premier League to help bring the title back to the red side of Manchester.
image: © Schwenke