The injury, sustained in October, has restricted the former Borussia Dortmund attacking midfielder to just six appearances for United, in which he contributed two goals and one assist.
His return could be well-timed: Wayne Rooney will be missing with ligament damage for at least two or three more games, and Kagawa could stand in for his teammate, slotting into the hole just behind Robin van Persie.
However, it would seem that Sir Alex Ferguson intends on reintroducing his £17 million summer signing slowly. The United boss stated in his press conference that there's likely a place on the bench for Kagawa (via ManUtd.com):
Shinji wanted to do a warm-up and training on the pitch and he is getting close. I'll see what he's like today and I could maybe put him on the bench tomorrow depending on who is available. The most important thing is to assess the tiredness and also the fitness of one or two others.
When Manchester United identified Kagawa as a player who could add an extra dimension to their play, United fans the world over were hoping that the double Bundesliga champion would bring some of his hometown's famous traits with him.
Kobe, Japan’s fifth-largest city and Kagawa's birthplace, has some famous industries: ASICS shoes specialise in athletic excellence, and Kawasaki is renowned for speed.
In his first couple of games for United, he managed to introduce these qualities.
Kagawa brought the nimble athleticism and a speed of thought and body that made him the most feared attacking midfielder in the 2011-12 Bundesliga season. According to WhoScored.com, he returned 17 goals and 13 assists, ahead of Bayern Munich’s Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery.
He then seemed to lose his way a little. By his own admission, he needed to adapt to the rigours of the English Premier League. Kagawa said (via The Japan Times):
To be honest, I don't believe I have yet cemented my place (in the team). There is not one game that I can be satisfied with the way I played over the 90 minutes. I still feel I need more time to adapt. It is fate for any player that plays for a big club and I am trying to draw on the positives.
Kagawa’s hometown also boasts Kobelco, a world-respected steel producer, and this is perhaps a characteristic that the slight-framed 23-year-old needs to bring to his game. So far, he has been knocked off the ball far too easily. He needs to show more physical toughness, more steel.
This was also true of Manchester City’s David Silva in his first season in the Premiership. Considering his slight physical stature, he has now adapted well and holds his own against the EPL’s most domineering opponents.
Indeed, should Kagawa learn not to be intimidated by the more physical side of the Premiership, he could well develop into Manchester United’s very own Silva—a player that links everything together with intelligent movement and creativity and can find a killer pass even in the tightest of games.
Should this possibility materialise over the next season or two, then Kagawa may well find himself compared to his home city’s most famous exports of all—Kobe beef—a fine cut of beef considered a highly desirable delicacy in Japan and the world over.
Do you think Shinji Kagawa could become Manchester United’s David Silva? Give me your thoughts below or hit me up on Twitter @jonathanbeever.