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David Moyes Must Find Out Whether Shinji Kagawa Can Fill Robin van Persie Void

LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 11:  Robin van Persie of Manchester United shakes hands with Shinji Kagawa as he is substituted during the FA Community Shield match between Manchester United and Wigan Athletic at Wembley Stadium on August 11, 2013 in London, England.  (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
Mike Hewitt/Getty Images
Rob DawsonManchester United CorrespondentDecember 13, 2013

David Moyes could be forgiven for walking around Manchester United's training ground wearing a hard hat.

He must be thinking "what could possibly go wrong next?" 

A groin injury kept Robin van Persie out of the game against Everton last week. United lost. Van Persie returned for the next game at home to Newcastle, but Wayne Rooney was ruled out with suspension. United lost.

Both played a part in the midweek win over Shakhtar—Rooney started and van Persie came off the bench in the second-half—but heading to Aston Villa this weekend, Moyes is again van Persie, who has now been sidelined for a month with a thigh injury.

Talking to the Manchester Evening News, per Stuart Mathieson, at his weekly press conference, Moyes admitted it was "unfortunate."

"It is unfortunate because I think if you look at our record with Wayne Rooney and Robin in the team it is actually very good and we have not had them for quite a period recently."

He's not wrong. In the eight games Rooney and van Persie have started together this season, United have won six and drawn two. Their last outing together ended in a 1-0 win over Premier League leaders Arsenal.

When they've both started this season, United have won 75 per cent of their games. Without one of them, that figure drops to 44 per cent. That's a big difference.

But, as Moyes says, they haven't been available at the same time very often. It doesn't bode well with van Persie now set to be on the treatment table until the New Year.

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - AUGUST 26:  Shinji Kagawa of Manchester United warms up with Robin van Persie (L) prior to the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester United and Chelsea at Old Trafford on August 26, 2013 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by
Alex Livesey/Getty Images

In his absence, United must find a way to win games, or the perceived crisis at Old Trafford is only going to deepen.

Van Persie's injury might appear to be a chance for Danny Welbeck or Javier Hernandez to stake a claim for a regular starting spot. But Shinji Kagawa will also feel it's an opportunity to play in the role for which he was signed.

Signed two months before van Persie, Kagawa has been in the Dutchman's shadow throughout his time at Old Trafford. 

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - AUGUST 25:  (L-R) Danny Welbeck, Wayne Rooney and Javier Hernandez of Manchester United look on from the bench during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester United and Fulham at Old Trafford on August 25, 2012 in Manche
Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

With Rooney and van Persie used in a front two, Kagawa has been shifted to the left. He's tried to make the best of it, saying all the right things in interviews, but it's not his preferred position. That's as a No. 10. 

He's done it regularly in the Bundesliga for Borussia Dortmund, and van Persie's injury gives him the chance to prove he can do it on a regular basis in the Premier League—if Moyes gives him the opportunity. 

That doesn't mean starting him behind Rooney then shifting him to the left after 15 minutes—or switching him with Welbeck when the mood strikes. It means trusting Kagawa to be Rooney's creator, to pick the ball up in midfield and be the man behind the chance.

It's a lot of responsibility, especially in a team that is not playing particularly well. But it's one Moyes has to find out if he can handle.

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