Man Utd Transfers: Does the Arrival of Kagawa Spell the End for Park Ji-Sung?

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Man Utd Transfers: Does the Arrival of Kagawa Spell the End for Park Ji-Sung?
Kaz Photography/Getty Images

Manchester United recently announced that a fee has been agreed with Borussia Dortmund for Japanese attacking midfielder Shinji Kagawa for an initial £12 million.

The 23-year-old scored 13 goals in 31 games last season to help Dortmund win both the Bundesliga and the German Cup. After his €350,000 transfer in 2010 from Cezero Osaka in Japan, he has scored 24 goals in 56 games.

Kagawa joins a United midfield already featuring South Korean star Park Ji-Sung. Park’s place in the side has often been questioned, with critics claiming he is merely there as a “token," a marketing tool to help the Red Devils sell jerseys in the Far East.

Manchester United claim to have a total fanbase of 659 million people, based on a survey from market research company Kantar. Of these 659 million people, over 325 million were from Asia. This makes it a huge market for a club like Manchester United to exploit.

However, in business terms, Manchester United is not only a sports club—it’s also a global brand. The world speaks the language of football, and no matter where you go you can say “Manchester United” and someone will be able to respond. Iconic figures throughout the history of the club such as Cantona and Rooney mean that jersey sales bring in plenty of money to the club.

With the arrival of Kagawa, Park’s place is now under threat. Both play the same attacking midfield role, with Kagawa having spent much of last season playing there after the injury to Mario Götze.

Park’s advantage is his familiarity with the club and its system, and his ability to show up in the clutch for United. This label of being a "big-game player," as well as his relentless work rate, has made Park a fan favourite.

In terms of style, the two are very different. Park is like a Duracell bunny—the man never stops. He will run and run for 90 minutes, turning up all over the field. This helps him perform in crucial moments of the game, as he has the energy to push on and get into good positions to score when others are wearing out.

Kagawa fits the mold of a more traditional attacking midfielder, with a great first touch and ability to change direction in small spaces. With speculation over a possible shift in formation from the classic 4-4-2 to the "fashionable" 4-2-3-1, Kagawa fits either on the wing or as a central playmaker.

Assuming this change is made, United could bring an attacking quartet of Young, Rooney, Kagawa and Welbeck to the table. This would present a considerable threat to any back four with their creativity and athleticism.

It is Park who is most at risk of losing his place. The 4-4-2 benefits from workmanlike players in the middle of the park who can cover plenty of ground in order to help make up for other teams who may put three or more players in central midfield.

The 4-2-3-1 provides more players in the center of the pitch with the addition of an attacking midfielder in place of a second striker. This puts a premium on passing ability and distribution over stamina, as the trio in midfield find openings and feed the attacking players.

Ultimately, Park will most likely stay at Old Trafford.

The 31-year-old has woven himself into the fabric of the club in his 134 appearances for the Red Devils. Shinji Kagawa will certainly bring some new flair to United’s attack, but the workmanlike Park’s effort and ability in the clutch will almost certainly find him a place in Sir Alex Ferguson’s plans for the 2012-2013 season.

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