This summer, in what was probably one of the biggest moves in the history of the Premier League, Manchester United managed to sign Dutch striker Robin van Persie, from bitter rivals Arsenal for a total fee of £24m.
In all the excitement of his arrival, the pundits seemed to almost completely forget about United’s other key summer signing, Shinji Kagawa, who has already impressed in both of his appearances for the Red Devils in the league so far this season.
Believe it or not, despite not being the headline grabber that van Persie has been, Kagawa has the potential to have more of an impact on the United fray this season than RVP does.
Van Persie is a world class player who has been brought to the club to finish chances and bring United’s goal tally to a championship winning level.
However, should van Persie somehow fail to live up to the hype—or simply just pick up an injury or need a rest from play—then United will always have Wayne Rooney, a player of a similar calibre to RVP, to step into his place and take up the reigns of lead goal scorer.
In essence, the signing of van Persie has guaranteed that, barring a hugely unlikely spree of injuries, United will now always have a quality man upfront to bang in the goals on a regular basis.
However, what Kagawa provides is so much more than this.
Kagawa is the man behind those goals, the very reason that they will come to be in the first place.
It’s Shinji’s creative play that sets up goals, and with the likes of Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes now coming so close to retirement, the Japanese International will have to step up to the plate almost immediately.
On Sunday night Barcelona took on Osasuna in a match that should of, in theory, been a relative walk-over for the Spanish giants.
However, with star player Xavi absent from proceedings Barcelona were forced into changing their style of play in favour of risky long balls and mad runs at the Osasuna defence.
Without their playmaker and key man in terms of keeping possession, they crumbled, and were saved only when Lionel Messi managed to step it up a gear and grab a brace of goals for a more than lucky victory.
An example much closer to home would be United’s very own Paul Scholes.
Last season, United were severely lacking any sort of creative midfield player when Tom Cleverly picked up an injury in a 5-0 victory over Bolton early on in the season.
With no apparent replacement for the role, Sir Alex managed to convince the legend Scholes to come out of retirement.
The Ginger Ninja shone once again for United, and managed to bring them within inches of winning the Premier League title once more.
The point I'm making is that these sides, however heaped full of talent that they are, cannot function to the maximum without that key centrally minded midfielder.
This season Scholes will more than likely take a back seat to the new crop of United players.
Kagawa has been touted since he was first linked with the club as a possible “future Scholes,” and now it seems as though “the prophecies” may well be coming to fruition.
In his first two matches for the club, Kagawa managed to hold up the ball brilliantly in the middle of the park, retaining possession for United and providing both the centre forwards and the wingers with plenty of opportunities to carve out attacks.
His partnership with Tom Cleverly (a player that despite showing immense talent, will not have the same effect as Kagawa on the side) has the potential to be one of the most important in the Premier League this season for any team.
Sure, van Persie will be an out of this world signing for the Red Devils, he will net countless goals and continue his reign as one of the most deadly strikers in Premier League history.
But Kagawa is the glue that will hold the Manchester United side together this year.
His role wont be as noticeable, or perhaps even as memorable, as the contributions that the striker will make. But it will be utterly crucial.
Without van Persie, United will always have Rooney. Without Kagawa, United are somewhat up a creek without a paddle.