Shinji Kagawa‘s central role for Manchester United during their 5-0 destruction of Bayer Leverkusen showed what kind of a player he is when he’s not on the wing, giving David Moyes a selection problem.
Had Ryan Giggs not perfomed masterfully just two days short of his 40th birthday, Kagawa would probably be stealing all the headlines. He looked almost like a different player completely, as Moyes gave him around 80 minutes as an attacking midfielder.
Having spent so much time on the wing this season, he was placed the role he impressed in at former club Borussia Dortmund. Behind Wayne Rooney on Wednesday, we saw why United brought him to the club. Just like Norwich found out when Kagawa struck thee times against them last season, Leverkusen were undone by the 24-year-old Japanese international’s creativity.
His freedom in movement is something that we barely even see glimpses of when he is played on the left side. He had the ability to be far more dynamic, and it worked beautifully. On the wing, he was always forced to always pass to his right. Alternatively, he would run inside only to stumble into several players.
In the middle, he was the one in control. His movement pulled the Bundesliga’s second-placed team’s defense apart. It left space for others, and that was a big reason for United’s five goals and total dominance.
The first goal in particular from Antonio Valencia was started by Kagawa’s drive through the middle of the pitch. When in that area, it’s unpredictable where he is going next. He varied his approach with long-range efforts, creative passes and movements to stretch the defense. This is all far more restricted when on the wing, and that is why we saw him flourish.
Moyes has only really played Kagawa in this central role briefly this season, but he was superb with almost the entire game to do it on Wednesday. The chip that found Rooney, who passed to Chris Smalling for the fourth United goal, was the highlight. That was Kagawa showing exactly what he can do.
It is a real problem for Moyes now, but a good one. Does he play Kagawa behind the striker more often? He gave a performance to warrant it. United are crying out for a creative midfielder currently, and Kagawa displayed just how much he can offer Moyes still.