While he is a pure class striker at the peak of his powers, Robin van Persie is not Sir Alex Ferguson’s best signing this past summer and not necessarily the one that Roberto Mancini should be ruing about. Mancini has made it clear and publicly known that Manchester City were chasing his signature and that RvP’s decision to go to the red half of Manchester will ultimately be the difference in the title race. That will most likely be true this season, but in the foreseeable future the best signing this past summer was the diminutive attacking midfielder, Shinji Kagawa.
Kagawa’s debut season with United has, at best, been pedestrian. A couple of goals, some flashy passes, but he’s generally been anonymous for many of his appearances. Clearly his knee injury that sidelined him for much of the first half of the season was a major hindrance to the level of cohesion he’d develop with his teammates. Take for instance the number of times he receives passes at his feet. For someone like Tom Cleverley or Michael Carrick, that is how you play them the ball. They want it right there so that they can swing the ball around quickly. But in the two seasons at Borassia Dortmund, Kagawa was at his best when the ball was played for him to run onto. Kagawa is a horror to deal with when he is running full speed at opposing defenses. His deft touch, vision, passing skills and uncanny ability to make quick and lethal decisions is what makes him a joy to watch. Unfortunately, United and their fans have yet to see him leading the charge on the break.
Since his brief return during the holiday run in, Kagawa has played a solid 87 minutes in two appearances and in each match, he showed the type of nerve, vision and downright craziness in his game to attempt the passes he played. Take for instance the little 1-2 flick he pulled off against West Bromwich Albion with Ashley Young that led to a goal. What other United player would even see that as a playable option? Then there was that tiki taka play of Barcelona-esque proportions with van Persie and Javier Hernandez against Wigan that dazzled and wowed the fans where there was a combination of roughly seven one-touch passes in a matter of seconds that bypassed the Wigan midfield.
What Kagawa needs is a run of games to start building the understanding an attacking player of his quality needs to have with his striking partners. But more importantly so that his teammates will understand how to play him the ball properly; ahead with some pace for him to run onto. He’s still young — only 23 — and his best qualities will shine for Manchester United in years to come. In three years time, he’ll be entering his prime and will have developed the trust and understanding of his teammates right when it’s probable that RvP’s powers will start to decline. Should United hold onto Kagawa, he’ll be darting through the heart of defenses with deft one touch passes with Cleverley and hitting lethal final passes to Wayne Rooney, Danny Welbeck and Chicharito.
RvP will return Manchester to red and bring the title back, but it will be Kagawa that will keep it that way for years to come.