Carrick's absence means the midfield options are meagre at best. Marouane Fellaini has stuttered and Tom Cleverley plays better in a three-man midfield. Moyes should consider dropping Wayne Rooney into midfield, thus allowing Kagawa to play behind Robin van Persie.
There are, of course, plenty of issues involved here, but let’s take a look at how Man United can accommodate Kagawa in his favoured No. 10 role.
Wayne Rooney Must Make a Compromise
Rooney playing in midfield is nothing new; he’s done it before. The trouble, however, is that he doesn’t want to play there. After all, that’s why he wanted to leave United in the summer transfer window.
Here’s what he had to say on the matter, with the quotes provided by Sam Wallace of The Independent:
Everyone at the club knew that [in attack] is where I wanted to play and I think that's why I was disappointed because I got told to play in midfield and I didn't want to. But I'd always go in and try to help the team, so I think there had to come a point where for my own career I had to be a bit selfish, really.
The beginning of that second sentence is crucial.
Yes, he favours an attacking role, but he’s prepared to “help the team” however he can. That’s the Wayne Rooney we’ve all come to love because his passion is second to none in world football.
There have been mutterings from some United fans that Rooney should play in midfield once again in Carrick’s absence.
By no means is it a long-term fix, but Rooney dropping into midfield while Carrick is out injured allows Kagawa to fulfil the role he is so desperate to play. There is no doubt whatsoever that Rooney is a better player in that No. 10 role, it’s just that Rooney is perhaps the most like-for-like replacement for Carrick that United have.
Let’s get it straight: Rooney’s form in the early going this season has been so good that it seems ludicrous to play him out of position; however, if he is willing to make a sacrifice for a few weeks, then his team could be better off for it.
Give Kagawa a New Lease on Life
The flip side to Rooney’s compromise is that it would free Shinji, so to speak.
He’s a wonderfully gifted player—we all know that—but he’s not had a chance to demonstrate it. On one of the few occasions that he has, when Rooney was substituted in the game at Real Sociedad, Kagawa moved into the No. 10 role and flourished. He was immediately involved in everything that was good about United’s play.
He must be afforded the chance to play there more regularly.
Paul Hayward of The Telegraph certainly believes that Kagawa deserves a chance in the middle.
And besides, it’s not like United lose anything.
The triumvirate of Kagawa, Rooney and van Persie would all still be on the pitch, which is something most fans would like to see. Furthermore, Kagawa playing centrally might make United’s attack less predictable and, consequently, add some fluency.
Secure Kagawa’s Future at Manchester United
We mustn’t forget that there is a wider context to this situation.
Kagawa will not—and should not—be content with playing out of position week in, week out. He’s been at United for just over one full season now and is entering a crucial point of his time at Old Trafford.
Give Kagawa the chance to shine in the No. 10 role and reap the rewards. Fail to do so, however, and he would be well within his rights to force a move away from the Premier League champions. You couldn’t begrudge him for it, could you?
Let’s not forget that Kagawa wanted to play for United. He turned down the chance to play for other big clubs who would no doubt be keen to sign him if he wanted to leave.
He’s unlikely to make the upheaval in January, just months before the World Cup. After a summer in Brazil, though, he may begin to consider his options. The 24-year-old is of an age where he needs to be playing regular football.
Give him a shot through the middle—even just for a few weeks—and he may decide that his future lies in Manchester.
If Rooney refuses to drop into midfield, then Kagawa will not have the chance to play in the No. 10 role. It’s that simple, really.
But Rooney is a team player, and this is not a permanent change of positions. It’s just for a handful of games. It’s a switch that makes sense, too. Rooney has the ability to command the midfield, and Kagawa possesses the abilities inherent within the game of every world-class No. 10.
Why not make it happen, David Moyes?
When Carrick returns, of course, Rooney should rightfully return to his favoured position. "What good will that do Kagawa in the long run," I hear you ask. Well, a spell in the No. 10 role could rejuvenate him and help him find his best form, even if that means him playing on the left-hand side.
Ultimately, if Rooney is prepared to make a short-term sacrifice, then United have very little to lose. In fact, with Kagawa probing in an advanced, central role, United have it all to gain.
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