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The Time Is Right for Shinji Kagawa and Tom Cleverley to Leave Manchester United

LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 19:  Shinji Kagawa (R) and Tom Cleverley of Manchester United warm up prior to kickoff during the Barclays Premier League match between Chelsea and Manchester United at Stamford Bridge on January 19, 2014 in London, England.  (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
Shaun Botterill/Getty Images
Rob DawsonManchester United CorrespondentAugust 29, 2014

Some relationships have to come to an end.

There doesn't have to be a screaming row. Or a cheating partner doing the dirty behind the other's back. 

There doesn't always have to be a guilty party. Sometimes, it's just best to part ways.

Shinji Kagawa and Tom Cleverley could end their unions with Manchester United before Monday's transfer deadline. 

It's tempting to think they should have done more. That if they'd worked harder, their careers at Old Trafford might have gone differently.

History might remember them as flops. Two players who had the chance to make it at United but fell short. But it's not as simple as that.

Jon Super/Associated Press

Kagawa, in particular, has been a victim of circumstance. He was meant to be Sir Alex Ferguson's key summer signing in 2012. 

He was going to play behind Wayne Rooney, linking midfield with attack. But then Robin van Persie became available, and Ferguson couldn't pass up the opportunity.

Kagawa was first choice for one game, against Everton on the opening day of the season while Van Persie sat on the bench. 

But in the two seasons since, the Japanese midfielder has been in and out of the team. Starting one game, not even on the bench for the next.

SUNDERLAND, ENGLAND - AUGUST 24:  Shinji Kagawa of Manchester United walks to the dressing room prior to the Barclays Premier League match between Sunderland and Manchester United at Stadium of Light on August 24, 2014 in Sunderland, England.  (Photo by M
Michael Regan/Getty Images

He was bought from Borussia Dortmund to play in a very specific position. 

But he has found his path blocked by Rooney, Van Persie, Danny Welbeck, Javier Hernandez and Juan Mata, a similar player signed from Chelsea for £37.1 million in January.

He has been asked to play wide. On the pre-season tour of the United States he was used as a deep-lying midfielder. Neither position gets the best of his obvious talent, his intelligent movement and creative instinct.

SUNDERLAND, ENGLAND - AUGUST 24: Shinji Kagawa of Manchester United gives the thumbs up from the bench prior to the Barclays Premier League match between Sunderland and Manchester United at Stadium of Light on August 24, 2014 in Sunderland, England.  (Pho
Michael Regan/Getty Images

It's not that he hasn't played well enough. Or that he wasn't given enough chances to impress. It just hasn't worked out.

It will work out for him somewhere. He's got too much talent for that not to be the case. It just won't be at United. At least, not now.

Cleverley has found himself in a similar situation. 

He got fans excited with his performance against Barcelona during the 2011 pre-season tour and against Manchester City in the Community Shield.

He started the first four games of the season and would have continued in the first team had it not been for an ankle injury.

SUNDERLAND, ENGLAND - AUGUST 24: Tom Cleverley of Manchester United is closed down by Sebastian Larsson of Sunderland during the Barclays Premier League match between Sunderland and Manchester United at Stadium of Light on August 24, 2014 in Sunderland, E
Michael Regan/Getty Images

But by the time David Moyes took over last summer, he looked like a player short of confidence. Playing out of position and doubting everything that had come naturally to him when he first broke into the team.

He's had the same problem this season. So worried about making a mistake that he ends up making more than most.

It's a highly pressurised environment at United, especially for an academy graduate. Cleverley looks like he needs a change of scenery. A club where the spotlight might not be so intense. 

Kagawa and Cleverley are only 25. There's still time for them to rebuild their careers somewhere else.

But some players, however talented, don't fit in at certain clubs. 

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - MAY 13: Shinji Kagawa of Manchester United celebrates with team-mate Tom Cleverley (R) during the Manchester United Premier League Winners Parade at Manchester Town Hall on May 13, 2013 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Chris Brunski
Chris Brunskill/Getty Images

It doesn't mean they're bad footballers. No. Just better suited to another manager's ideas. A different club where they'll play more regularly and in their preferred positions.

When any relationship breaks up, it's easy to point the finger. To blame the player, the manager or the club. 

But sometimes it's best for everyone to go their separate ways. Safe in the knowledge that it just wasn't meant to be.

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