Despite injuries disrupting the first half of his season, should Manchester United have put more faith in their Japanese playmaker in recent months?
Fleeting glimpses. That is what we have seen of Shinji Kagawa this season.
Not the man. We have seen plenty of him. But of the player we have seen only flickers.
The first of these were early in the season, before the Japanese playmaker had found his feet, but when it was already clear that he kept and distributed the ball like few others at Manchester United.
The most famous sighting to date was at Old Trafford on Saturday March 2 2013, where Kagawa bagged a hat-trick against Norwich City, including two goals of such easy-excellence that fans were purring.
And now there has been another glimpse, on Wednesday evening at Upton Park, when the former Borussia Dortmund man set up both United’s goals; the first with an outstanding run and pass, and the second with a turn and shot that deserved the goal rather than the assist it became.
So why should Kagawa feel aggrieved in light of such great moments? Why should he be anything other than happy with a season that started slowly but is becoming a show-reel for better things to come?
The truth is for all Kagawa’s escalating “moments”, his manager still doesn’t seem to have complete faith in him.
With United chasing a winning goal on Wednesday, and with Kagawa at the heart of their two best moments, Sir Alex Ferguson replaced him with Javier Hernandez. It was half a good decision. But the wrong half was in taking off a player who had the beating of his opponents.
Despite yesterday’s comments from his manager that the player is growing into his role at the club, he is yet to be relied upon as the fulcrum he can be; the player so devastating in his time in Germany and a key element in Dortmund’s success.
Kagawa has rarely played in his preferred position in his first season in England. It is something countless players have had to get used to. And a good player should be good regardless of where he is asked to play, right?
Well, no, not really. Not when Kagawa was outstanding behind a central striker during his time in Germany.
And not when, finally given that chance against Norwich, he bagged the match-ball.
And yet in the games that followed it was either back to the bench or the left wing.
The latter is a position he is beginning to master, as his performance against West Ham demonstrated. And yet Kagawa has the right to feel aggrieved for showing what he can do, but not always being allowed to do it; for being substituted when he was seemingly the only lock for an otherwise impenetrable defence.
They say next season will be Kagawa’s season. And I tend to agree with them. But perhaps this season should have been, too; certainly the second half of it.
What do you think of Kagawa's first season in England? And could he have influenced their biggest matches with more minutes under his belt?
image: © Marcel Sigg