Shinji Kagawa hasn't featured during the very early stages of the new Premier League campaign for Manchester United. That led to speculation about his future with the transfer window nearing its conclusion, but staying put has remained his best option.
It sounds like that's exactly what will happen. Stephan Uersfeld of ESPN FC reports Atletico Madrid and Borussia Dortmund both showed interest in Kagawa, but the midfielder's agent, Thomas Kroth, said he plans to stay at Old Trafford and offered a reason for his lack of match action so far:
Shinji will currently not be leaving Manchester United. He wants to fight for his place. Because of the Confederations Cup, he did not have a full pre-season and therefore still has a training deficit. That’s why he, until now, has won hardly any playing time.
Kagawa is coming off a solid, yet not spectacular, debut season with United. He racked up six goals and three assists in 20 Premier League appearances. A knee injury halted his progress in the middle of the campaign, but he returned and showed improvement in the latter stages.
The relatively mundane campaign is right in line with what the midfielder has done throughout his career. He started slow with Cerezo Osaka before turning into an offensive dynamo over his final season and a half with the club.
Kagawa then moved to Borussia Dortmund, where he made notable progress from his first to his second season, which attracted interest from Manchester United. So it usually takes some time before he finds his comfort zone, then he begins to shine.
United are hoping the same will ring true in the coming seasons. The club sorely lacked a player with his combination of creativity and distribution skills during a lackluster scoreless draw against fellow title contenders Chelsea the last time out.
When in top form, he's a player who can provide that crucial link to the likes of Robin van Persie and Danny Welbeck to jump-start the attack. Without his presence in the midfield, United struggled to find that connection against the Blues.
So there's certainly a need for him in the lineup. Exactly why he's been held out of the first two matches completely remains unclear. But whether it's a lack of match fitness as his agent suggests or something else, it's clear he could provide a boost to the United attack.
Due to that, it should only be a matter of time before he's back making an impact for United. Another transfer, and therefore another transition period, is only going to stop him from getting back into top form.
Obviously, one concern a lot of players have this season is the World Cup. Players are worried about making sure they get enough playing time to head into next summer on a high note, and Kagawa is no different with his national team of Japan already qualified.
That shouldn't be an issue, however. Once he gets back in the United rotation, he won't have much trouble staying heavily involved. If for whatever reason that doesn't turn out to be the case, there's always the winter window to make a change.
As for now, though, staying with United is the right move for Kagawa. He's got the talent to succeed, and the high-profile matches will help him prepare for next summer.