There’s an interview with Shinji Kagawa in The Mirror today, in which the Japanese international discusses his form since moving to Manchester United from the Bundesliga.
“I’m really feeling that I need to perform better. I’m not satisfied with what I have done here at all.”
(Via Sky Sports)
It’s easy to understand his frustration, because the United fans haven’t seen the best of him – but he’s being harsh on himself.
Whenever a creative player moves to a new club, there will always be a settling-in period. Kagawa’s game relies on reading the movement of teammates around him, and those kind of instinctive relationships take time to develop.
The difference between him and someone like, say, Robin van Persie, is that Kagawa influences a game from within: he doesn’t score a lot of goals and he’s not someone who will beat a lot of players with the ball at his feet. New signings that do possess those kind of abilities will adjust to a new environment quicker, because they’re less reliant on what goes on around them – sure, there’s still a adjustment period, but it’s less severe.
As and when Kagawa tailors his use of the ball to the players around him, it will become abundantly clear quite how good a player he is. There are some similarities here with Luka Modric, and his adjustment to English football. Kagawa is a slightly more offensive-minded player than the Croatian, but still, they are both players who rely on their chemistry with teammates to be successful – incidentally, that’s also why Modric is now struggling in La Liga.
Metronomes, ball-players, temperament-setters…whatever you want to call that type of player, they need time to adjust to their surroundings. In Kagawa’s case, don’t forget that he also lost a large chunk of his season to injury, so that period might be a little longer than usual.
None of that is to say that he’s played badly, just that there’s far more to come. He’s already shown glimpses of what he’s capable of – the pass against Tottenham which led to United’s goal, for example – but with a little patience he’ll become an extremely valuable asset to Sir Alex Ferguson.