Following another snub for Shinji Kagawa, are United regretting missing out on the Belgium international?
Prior to his move to Stamford Bridge, Eden Hazard was widely-reported to be considering Old Trafford. Offers were on the table and the Belgian was making his mind up, teasing the Twitter-world in the process.
When he finally chose London over Manchester, United acted quickly to sign Shinji Kagawa from Borussia Dortmund, in an agreement that seemed all but done for some time, if you believed the press.
The timing of the deal though – announced a week after Hazard joined the Blues – suggested Sir Alex Ferguson had been awaiting the Lille forward’s decision before rubber-stamping Kagawa’s move.
It needs to be said that Hazard’s demands – including a reported £6million agent fee – were the reason some clubs walked away and others made offers considerably lower. When even Manchester City baulk at your demands, you know you are asking a lot.
And so a player regarded as one of the brightest in Europe moved to the European Champions. While a player German football observers were calling a bargain moved to United.
In many ways, yesterday’s FA Cup quarter-final replay between Chelsea and United was a microcosm of the two players’ seasons. While Hazard dictated the play in a game his second-half introduction in the first match had brought about, Kagawa remained on the bench.
Three substitutions later, as the visitors chased an equaliser, Robin van Persie, Ryan Giggs and Ashley Young had all been sent on ahead of him. If Chelsea were in the same situation, Hazard would have been the first man called for. In fact two weeks earlier, he had been.
So, as Ferguson turns his attention to Monday’s derby against City, he may tell the world that he is happy just to win back the league. But with a little more spark, he could have won far more.
Many thought that spark would come from Kagawa, and when the 23-year-old scored a hat-trick against Norwich last month it seemed he had found his feet after injury and acclimatisation. But that was a glimpse quickly hidden again, a trailer for a feature not yet shown.
Chelsea fans may say Hazard was only ever Chelsea-bound. And United fans may say Kagawa will come good, and that the money the Belgium international cost in transfer fees, wages and extras was akin to daylight robbery. But as he returns to the fine form he showed in the early months of the season, while Kagawa remains on the bench or is played out of position, you can’t help but wonder what might have been.
The Japanese playmaker is undoubtedly talented, but until Ferguson finds – and sticks to – a formation that suits him, they will be missing what Chelsea have in abundance: imagination, creativity and a viable threat from midfield.
Should United have gone all out to sign Hazard or would he have gone to Chelsea regardless? And will Kagawa ultimately be given the chance to shine at Old Trafford?
image: © Marcel Sigg