Recently, Bleacher Report has published a glut of articles looking at Shinji Kagawa, exploring what the Japanese playmaker needs to do to realise his potential or ways that Manchester United can finally unlock his limitless potential.
The perception is that a combination of injuries and competition for places has reduced Kagawa’s potential influence at Old Trafford; he may have picked up a Premier League winner’s medal last term, but English football still hasn’t seen anything near his top game.
Considering United’s struggles so far this season, the time may well have come for Kagawa to bite the bullet and imagine a future away from the shining lights of the North-West’s second city.
Read on to discover five reasons why the Japanese playmaker should leave the Red Devils.
While Kagawa’s Manchester United career to date has been beset by injury, there’s little suggestion that he would have made a strong impression at the club even had he not been sidelined.
Ideally, Kagawa would play behind the striker in a No. 10 role; however, this position is currently occupied by Wayne Rooney, who now looks committed to the cause and thus undroppable since his summer of discontent.
Unable to wrest the position away from Rooney, Kagawa has often been shunted out to the left flank, but even here he faces competition in the shape of Danny Welbeck (also capable of playing behind the striker), Ryan Giggs (although more frequently used in a deeper position) and Wilfried Zaha (not currently finding favour in Moyes’s eyes).
Despite the various failings of these characters, Kagawa is yet to convince Moyes (or Ferguson before him) that he is worthy of a place in the starting XI, let alone in his favoured position behind the striker.
In the face of such competition, and unable to flourish as he would ideally hope to do, it may be in Kagawa’s best interests to move on to a stage where he can operate in his perfect position and enjoy a key run in the side.
There will be no shortage of potential suitors willing to give Kagawa the creative reins—the Asian playmaker ought to escape Old Trafford before his merits fade in the eyes of those would-be saviours.
Kagawa’s stagnation at Manchester United comes in sharp contrast to his stint in Germany at Dortmund.
In the Bundesliga, he quickly made a name for himself and emerged as one of the league’s finest attacking midfielders.
Former boss Jurgen Klopp (speaking to the Daily Mail) was so surprised when he heard of Kagawa’s plight in Manchester, he told the Daily Mail:
Shinji Kagawa is one of the best players in the world and he now plays 20 minutes at Manchester United—on the left wing! My heart breaks. Really, I have tears in my eyes.
With the Dortmund man such a fond admirer—and with precedent for welcoming former players back into the fold—the prospect of a return to the Bundesliga must be one that is playing on Kagawa’s mind.
The club have recruited astutely since the departure of Mario Gotze to Bayern Munich and with Robert Lewandowski soon to follow him, a spot will open up in Dortmund’s offensive line.
Perhaps a return home, to the club where he made his name, would be the ideal move for Kagawa—it would surely save him from potentially being one of the sport’s "might-have-beens."
Players get twitchy in a World Cup year—no one wants to struggle at club level and end up missing out on the grandest occasion of them all. It’s a long old wait until the next one.
Now, Shinji Kagawa will almost certainly have a place in Japan’s World Cup squad—even if he weren’t to play a competitive game between now and early June, he’d still be picked.
Such is his importance to the squad and his myriad of skills that Alberto Zaccheroni will certainly find a place for him among his chosen ones.
However, should Kagawa endure another indifferent season with United, another campaign where he flits in and out of the side, there is no guarantee that he will be at his absolute best come Brazil 2014.
Indeed, the Japanese midfielder could really do with a season where he is an integral part of United’s first 16.
There will likely be rotation, so he should avoid burnout, but if he remains little more than a peripheral part of the squad, then Zaccheroni can expect a rusty, out-of-sorts midfielder turning up for pre-tournament training at the season’s end.
There is a suggestion that Sir Alex Ferguson cannily sailed off into retirement in the knowledge that Manchester United had a squad riddled with holes and on the brink of a severe decline.
With ageing players, some incredibly flabby areas of the squad (literally, in the case of Anderson), and other areas with a remarkable paucity of resources, the team demands a major overhaul, an unenviable task in the club’s current financial environment.
Bearing this mind, it can become easy to imagine United as a sinking ship, soon to be overtaken and overrun by the league’s other big guns and Arsenal.
With the club on the brink of decline, and its key figures approaching the end of their careers, United’s squad could be in for a tough time.
In this context, it might be wise for Kagawa to escape and join a club on the up where he can flourish unpressured, without the inevitable inquest and speculation that would surely accompany any United decline.
Should United fail to qualify for the Champions League, a very realistic possibility at the current time, then Kagawa—along with a host of others—may well be tempted to seek pastures new in order to test themselves against Europe’s finest.
While a period of transition, even of torrential complication, was to be expected, the clunkiness with which the Scot has shuffled into the hotseat may be cause for concern.
United looked worryingly inept and sluggish in the defeat against West Bromwich Albion and the fact that this is their worst start to a league campaign in 24 years cannot simply be explained away through the absence of the great Sir Alex.
This team are, by and large, the reigning champions and such a lack of coherence and cohesion does not do wonders for Moyes’ credibility.
While the Red Devils will almost certainly finish higher than their current position of 12th, there is no guarantee that Moyes will manage to demonstrate his worth with big-name players and in the furious environment of elite fixtures.
Should disenchantment begin to creep into the dressing room and seep into the morale of the team, then the former Everton boss could have some trouble turning things around.
If he is unable to, then things could become toxic at Old Trafford—Kagawa, still forming his own standing in the game, would do well not to be tarnished by the manager’s inadequacies.
He could be wise to seek a move to escape before United hit rock bottom—and before his own reputation is damaged beyond repair.