The team that Alex Ferguson sent out against Norwich at the weekend was also going to be closely analysed for indications of how it would bear on their side for the Champions League match with Real Madrid. The absence of Rio Ferdinand and Rafael suggested they will be two men likely to start in the defence, whilst Ryan Giggs being left out of the squad surely means the veteran will play a big role on Tuesday.
Shinji Kagawa did start the game against the Canaries, and perhaps Ferguson had not planned to then use him again on Tuesday, but given the sparkling performance the Japanese midfielder gave, it will be very hard to leave him out.
Not only did Kagawa score a hat trick, he completed the second most passes of anyone on the pitch, and created three chances for his team mates. Drifting in off the left side, Kagawa was a constant threat, and his composure in front of goal for the second and third goals demonstrated a welcome confidence in his ability after a tricky first season at Old Trafford.
Although both teams will probably start the game cagily on Tuesday, there is every chance that both of them will end up on the score sheet at some stage. Real Madrid’s brace of wins over Barcelona over the past week will have given them plenty of confidence, and Ronaldo, though clearly never really out of form, seems exceptionally motivated at the moment.
As such Manchester United will probably need to score themselves, and given his treble at the weekend, Kagawa has shown that he could be just the man for the job in that regard. Either playing off a flank, or dropping behind a central striker, Kagawa has the nous to hold onto the ball in dangerous positions, picking a pass for his team mates or posing a direct threat himself.
Whilst injuries gave stopped his debut season from being a real success, Kagawa could become crucial for Manchester United in the closing weeks of the year. With the FA Cup, Champions League and Premier League all still to play for, the Japanese midfielders hat trick could mark him as a man hitting his best form at the perfect time.
image: © Marcel Sigg