Four wins from four matches – that was Shinji Kagawa’s outstanding record against Bayern Munich during his time at Borussia Dortmund. But when the German champions came to Old Trafford, the Japanese play-maker found himself back on the bench, much to the annoyance of a portion of Manchester United fans.
But following an injury to the evergreen Ryan Giggs, Kagawa found his way on to the pitch perhaps earlier than David Moyes would have envisaged, only to have an impact that should not be understated.
The sight of Kagawa standing on the side-lines ready to take to the field would have had an unnerving effect on some of those Bayern players who knew what he was capable of. After all, here was the player who had set up goals against them in 1-0 and 5-2 victories and scored himself when Dortmund thumped them in that German Cup final of 2012.
Some believe it was Kagawa’s performance that day that convinced Sir Alex Ferguson to make his move. But whether that was the case or the move was already very much in motion, Kagawa’s arrival on Tuesday evening had a strange effect on Bayern.
Some may accuse me of imagining it, but from the moment Kagawa joined the action Pep Guardiola’s men sat back a little more, in the knowledge that the Japanese international can carve a chance out of nothing.
But just as Bayern’s players watched him warily, so Kagawa shone. It was as if he was somehow at his most confident against the best Europe has to offer exactly because he knows what he can and has done against them in the past.
With Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney in tandem, Kagawa still struggles when forced to conform to a more rigid positional-structure on the wing. But when given freedom, he excels. And that is why, accident or not, Moyes played a master-stroke by bringing Kagawa on just when Bayern were gearing up for another half of possession-play and probing.
Suddenly they had something else to think about, and ultimately it worked a treat.