Sunday, December 30, 2012

Kagawa return gives Fergie selection headache...

Shinji Kagawa made a welcome return to action following a lengthy spell on the sidelines to face West Brom at Old Trafford on Saturday. United maintained their seven point lead at the top of the table and kept the pressure on rivals Manchester City, with a two-nil win over the Baggies, thanks to a first-half own goal following Ashley Young's shot from close range and a second-half trademark Van Persie pile-driver.

As expected Wayne Rooney made way for the returning Kagawa. According to Ferguson, Rooney picked up a training ground injury last week and so he could be out for up two to three weeks. There is a suspicion that following his below par performance at Swansea and the immiment return of Kagawa, Ferguson had in fact decided to rest Rooney. Ferguson has to keep his players fresh and on their toes and prior to Saturday's clash with West Brom he confirmed squad rotation would be a feature of United's festive programme. Whether Rooney is genuinely injured or not doesn't really matter - his name wasn't included in the United squad that faced Steve Clarke's, West Brom.

The fact Rooney was left out serves to highlight Fergie' selection dilemma: How will the United manager fit Kagawa into this Manchester United team? Many see it as a straightforward case of "it is either Rooney or Kagawa - but not both" .

United fans like what they have seen so far of the Japanese star, many view the former Dortmund attacking midfielder as a possible successor to Paul Scholes - the early signs look promising. Kagawa has an excellent range of passing and like Scholes he is comfortable on the ball.

It's fair to state that it's generally accepted Fergie looks to have finally settled on Michael Carrick and Tom Cleverley as his first-choice central midfield pairing, this partnership has started to blossom over recent weeks. Bryan Robson heaped praise on Cleverley's performance in the derby, the United legend thought that YaYa Toure had been kept "reasonably quiet". High praise indeed. Given that Carrick and Cleverley are developing what looks to be a useful partnership, there wouldn't be a lot of sense breaking that up.

The win over City served to once again highlight one of United's big strengths - that is the ability to attack down the flanks. Having tinkered with a wingerless formation several times this season and with limited success, Fergie went back to his favoured 4-4-2 formation - it was a decision that paid dividends. City lack width and have to rely on their fullbacks to provide ammunition from the flanks - but when a  move breaks down they are often left exposed to the counter attack and this is where United capitalised in the derby.

So if we accept that Fergie is likely to continue with 4-4-2 and if Carrick and Cleverley are Fergie's first choice central midfield pairing, where does that leave Kagawa?

As he showed in the derby, Rooney is still a very important player for Manchester United. Fergie has to find a way of accommodating his best players and at the same time, get the best out of them. Leaving out Rooney will surely only be a short-term option. So Fergie has limited options, let's run through some of them:

Rooney on the left: This ploy doesn't really suit Rooney at all, far better to have your most potent threats in central areas where they can go left or right. The is also a danger that Rooney could become isolated on the flank where he cannot affect the game. However, the reality is Rooney wouldn't stick to the left, he would keep on coming inside - but this leaves United open the counter attack with Evra getting exposed - at least that is the big danger. While he's been scoring goals of late, Patrice Evra has come in for some heavy criticism in relation to the defensive side of his game, with one pundit on Sky's Gillette Soccer Saturday going as far as saying United were playing with just two at the back at times with Rio Ferdinand and Jonny Evans. Clearly, whoever plays in front of Evra has a duty to help defend that left flank when the need arises.

Kagawa on the left: You can pretty much read the above ref Rooney on the left. Except it's arguably an even worse case scenario as Kagawa doesn't look as though he's as good as Rooney at dropping back to help the defence. What's more, Kagawa would be better suited to the David Silva roaming role.

Fergie's only other option would be to change formation to 4-3-3 or a variant of, but for the reasons already outlined, we think that isn't going to happen and if it does happen, it will be a compromise.

With the danger of stating the obvious, the trick is to get the best out of the players at your disposal - we can talk about a hypothetical 3-5-2 formation, but one suspects that would be too radical. If Fergie adopted a 3-5-2 system the benefits are obvious - you get that extra man in central midfield plus you retain two strikers. The key to 3-5-2 success lies with wingbacks and your three central defenders knowing their roles and it relies on them having a solid understanding. Wigan deployed such a system last season at the DW Stadium and went on to beat United who never came to terms with that formation.

While mulling over the Kagawa, selection headache, we shouldn't forget Anderson, because the Brazilian has proven his worth several times this season, but here again, how does the manager square the circle?

Injuries will undoubtedly continue to play a part in Fergie's decision making - sometimes those tough decisions are made for you. But for now let us hope the likes of RVP, Rooney and Kagawa stay fit in so doing making Fergie's job an even tougher one where selection issues are concerned, but it's a nice problem to have.


  1. I still think that Rooney is still Utd best player. Therefore he should partner RVP up front when he's fit. Valencia shld start on the right provided that Rafael play. He look less impresive without Rafael as his side kick. In spite of his age, Ryan Giggs still the best left winger for Man Utd. Which mean, I don't think there's a place for Kagawa on the starting line up when everybody is fit. Still, he is an important player and capable of playing different roles in the team. Good cover for Rooney as well.

  2. I agree with all of your comments. Giggs has a better left foot than Young. Playing Giggs in midfield has worked on occasion, but at times he has been found wanting but to blame him alone would be a mistake - the balance of the team has been wrong on occasion. Giggs has taken a lot of unfair stick from some fans (on the net and on Twitter).

    Totally agree, Rooney is still our most important player - as he proved in the derby.

    Not sure what is wrong with Valencia, it's as if he's carrying some sort of injury.

  3. I forgot to add that, it might well take Kagawa time to work his influence within the squad (for want of a better expression) this is what I believe happened with Silva at City. He wasn't that infuential in his first season, but gradually, I think everyone concerned gained an appreciation of his skills and his ability to dictate the play around the opposition box. However, City play a different formation - one without wingers and as previously alluded to United are their best with two wide men. The upshot is we might not ever see the best of Kagawa at United - at least that is the big fear. City's system is more suited to Kagawa.

  4. I think next season Kagawa will see him at his best. He was one of the best players in Germany. But the premier league is a step up in class, in terms of quality & tempo. Kagawa has got everything to be one of the best players in premier league, he's got class, touch & skill.

  5. and next season they have more then what deceion will fergie took , Lendwaski , is one Man utd target another from Borussia dortmund

  6. Kagawa is the best playmaker in the world...any position is suitable for him.


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