The Japanese player was relatively unimpressive at West Ham on Saturday, but once he has fully recovered from his injury he might provide the spark to take United up a further level, especially in Europe.
With all the furore over the scintillating form of Robin van Persie, Manchester United's other major attacking signing over the summer has been largely forgotten. A long injury has stopped Shinji Kagawa from settling into his new club's first team, and his tentative performances since returning have yet to show his true class.
Right now the Japanese player is not entirely required at Old Trafford. With their strikers firing on all cylinders, and Cleverley and Carrick in good form in the midfield, Ferguson's side are hardly struggling for goals and sit seven points clear at the top of the league. However the importance of Kagawa to their chances of success in the second of the season shouldn't be underestimated and he might be particularly integral to United's hopes in the Champions League.
For all their attacking talent, Kagawa is the only true attacking playmaker that United have to call on. Wayne Rooney has done a fine job dropping deep to play the role for much of the season, but Kagawa is a natural in the space between the opponent's midfield and defence, and over the course of the season you would expect him to be more effective than Rooney in the position. Playing Kagawa would also lessen the pressure on Rooney to sit deeper, and allow the England man to stay in more dangerous positions, where he has shown he can score plenty of goals.
Kagawa could be especially effective in Europe, as he could help United control games more effectively. Against Real Madrid, United's current policy of throwing caution to the wind and hoping to score one more than the opposition might well come unstuck, and Kagawa's extra guile could be vital to United's attack if Ferguson sets up more defensively in Europe.
Manchester United's attack has rightly won plenty of plaudits this season, and they have done this largely without the injured Kagawa. However the Japanese player is phenomenally talented and it would be highly surprising if he didn't have a big impact on United's season now he has returned to fitness.
image: © Marcel Sigg