Maybe there’s a chance that Shinji Kagawa has yet to appear for Manchester United this season because of fatigue due to international matches with Japan, but there’s a better chance that he’s simply in the hands of the wrong manager, who doesn’t believe in him or know what to do with him.
Tactically, Moyes hasn’t played with an attacking midfielder, making Kagawa’s presence on the pitch redundant so far. But it goes beyond that. The Scottish manager wasn’t the one who brought Kagawa in, it was Alex Ferguson. With the rumors of Moyes diving into the scouting system United use in an attempt to change it and possible bring in his own men, there’s a good chance it’s some sort of start to a cleanup of unwanted personnel, including players.
Kagawa didn’t have the best of debut seasons for United, an injury halting his arrival. But he has shown promise with both his passing and his scoring ability, when he did get the chance. Kagawa isn’t very versatile in his positioning. He plays behind the striker, and that’s pretty much it. He can do something from a wider initial role, but the outcome is the same. He drifts to the middle, between the midfield and the box, trying to create from there.
Moyes isn’t a flexible manager in terms of tactics, or hasn’t been so far in his career. Nor has he faced a situation in which he has had to pull of wonders through rotation. Everton have hardly played in Europe, and he has never coached a group of internationals like the “problem” United provides him with. In yet another important factor that’s sometimes easy to ignore, Moyes is currently a bit out of his depth.
Dortmund try to bring Kagawa back, trying to improve just a bit more in their arms race with Bayern Munich, but also somewhat of a rescue act for Kagawa, who seems to be forgotten on the bench by Moyes, who has other players he prefers to see on the pitch, while not giving up on the two wingers, or pseudo wingers approach, with Danny Welbeck playing next to Van Persie.
Kagawa doesn’t fit the mold of the tough, tireless worker who is happy to forget his own strengths for dirty work. In Moyes’ eyes, it seems, Robin van Persie and maybe Wayne Rooney are the only ones above that kind of deployment, no one else. Kagawa might be too technical, and too “soft” for Moyes to actually want in his lineup.
Maybe Moyes will prove everyone wrong by showing he can change, adapt and do more than just one thing with this team. But Moyes hasn’t come out of nowhere. He has been a Premier League manager for over a decade, and the pattern that springs up from his past tells us that Kagawa is in for a rough, frustrating ride playing (not too much) for a manager who doesn’t really respect him.