Analysing the Use of Shinji Kagawa in West Ham 2-2 Manchester United

Sam TigheWorld Football Tactics Lead WriterApril 17, 2013

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - MARCH 10:  Shinji Kagawa of Manchester United in action during the FA Cup sponsored by Budweiser Sixth Round match between Manchester United and Chelsea at Old Trafford on March 10, 2013 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Manchester United traveled to East London looking to seal the title, but met a defiant old rival in the form of West Ham. After a 90-minute battle, the Red Devils will travel back proud of a well-earned point.

But despite the hard-fought nature of the game, the battle between United's central defence and Andy Carroll, and Mohamed Diame's wonder-strike, one of the more interesting talking points was Sir Alex Ferguson's use of Shinji Kagawa.

The former Borussia Dortmund man has rarely been allowed to play in his preferred role as a No. 10 playmaker, and tonight looked like an odd inclusion on paper.

Fergie set out his free-flowing 4-4-2 that's yielded so many goals this season, but Kagawa took up a narrow role on the left-hand side.

He offered little protection against Guy Demel roaming forward and teaming up with Ricardo Vaz Te, exposing Patrice Evra to attacks from all sorts of angles.

The Japanese star has been used incredibly sparingly this season, and Fergie tends to throw him into random games. That said, and considering his slight nature, West Ham away? It's only the second-most physical, and on paper, the second-worst fixture for him to face.

But it worked perfectly, and many will agree Kagawa was one of the best players on the field.

So how did he do it?

Kagawa was deployed on the left on purpose. He negated defensive duties, and when he did filter back it was more aimless pressing than actual tackling, but offensively he was the key cog.

Taking advantage of West Ham's gung-ho attitude—and in particular Ricardo Vaz Te's thirst for goals—was a surefire way to get behind a compact Sam Allardyce side.

Kagawa was brought into play very quickly, or utilised in one-two passing moves. Essentially, Kagawa attacked the space behind Vaz Te.

The Portuguese winger would rarely track the playmaker, and early on the Japanese talent had a decent chance to find a teammate with a pull-back.

Soon after, Kagawa found space, evaded the full-back, hit the byline and set Antonio Valencia up for a tap-in.

Job done? Not quite—there was magic left in the tank.

At 2-1 down, Fergie brought on the age-defying Ryan Giggs and switched to a 4-2-3-1. At last, Kagawa found himself in a No. 10 role.

He somehow found space in an outrageously congested area and fired a shot goalward that led to Robin van Persie's equaliser.

Shinji showed his ability to find space on several different areas on the field at Upton Park and will be credited with two assists for his troubles.

On paper Sir Alex was a mad man; in practice he's a genius.

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