Manchester United's summer signing Shinji Kagawa finally delivered for the Red Devils in the biggest way possible—netting a hat-trick en route to United's big 4-0 win over Norwich City at home this week.
The Japanese international, who was only signed by United last summer, netted the opening three goals of the game to take his season goals tally to five, but it was his dynamic running and movement alongside midfielder Wayne Rooney that had most United fans buzzing.
Particularly given the fact that the club face Real Madrid and their dominant midfield in a do-or-die Champions League match next week at Old Trafford.
Since the arrival of Robin van Persie, Rooney has been continuing to drop back into midfield and play more like an attacking central midfielder. He has the liberty to push forward and play as the striker or move to whichever part of the pitch he desires, but it also allows him to get back into the middle and create the attacking raids—which has worked well so far for United.
Now it seems that they've found the perfect complement for Rooney in Kagawa, who ran off the Englishman all afternoon with great success.
The Japanese star—making just his third starting berth on the left all season—followed up Rooney brilliantly for both the second and third goals of the match, and showed that he can be the complement to the United veteran in attacking midfield against Madrid.
Los Blancos dominated the Red Devils in their opening leg at the Bernabeu, but with the home-ground advantage firmly in their corner, United will no doubt look to get after the Spanish champions and try to attack them at every possible moment.
They'll field their strongest possible lineup, which will most likely include the addition of Kagawa out on the left—running great angles in behind Van Persie and Rooney in the attack, and combining well with the central midfield duo that Sir Alex Ferguson utilizes behind him.
Against Alvaro Arbeloa, Angel Di Maria and, at times, Cristiano Ronaldo, Kagawa's ability to push forward and utilize the inside channels next to Rooney will be key for United. The Spanish champions will be looking to set up control in the middle of the field through the likes of Xabi Alonso—United's ability to get central through Kagawa and Rooney, and find good attacking lanes as a result, will seemingly go a long way to their chances at success here.
The Red Devils' biggest weapon against Madrid will once again be their counterattack—something that Kagawa was largely frustrated with by the opening leg. He was often isolated going forward and forced to do too much—something that his ability to get central and find support should help.
You'd have to think that his hat-trick here makes him near impossible to leave out of the squad to take on Madrid in three days time, particularly if he can play like he did today. Kagawa has been largely inconsistent this season on paper, but he hasn't truly had the opportunities needed to become a genuine X-factor for the Red Devils in 2013.
With an opportunity, he could no doubt thrive against Madrid and be the difference between elimination and ecstasy for the Red Devils this week.
Time will tell for the 23-year-old.
Should Shinji Kagawa start for United against Real Madrid?
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