By Far The Greatest Team

The football blog for fans of all clubs

Free Shinji? Manchester United man is improving

Doing nothing is underrated. In a world where everyone is trying so hard to do things to impress people and achieve some sort of success, doing nothing can be a very good tactic – especially if you realise things might be going wrong.

For example, if you ever find yourself sinking in quicksand, an article from (who are definitely, definitely experts on the matter) suggests to “stand completely still” as “the lowest you are likely to sink is to around your waste.”
The article goes on to advise that: “thrashing around, however, has been shown to cause the sediment and water to separate somewhat. This will cause you to sink deeper and deeper the more you thrash, to the point where you’re almost completely submersed; then your thrashing, due to some suctioning effects, can pull you under.”

Since Sir Alex Ferguson retired, there has been a general feeling that Manchester United may be in a rather troubling position. Even for a side who won the league by 11 points last season, every turn seems to be laced with a nagging doubt in regards to their ability to defend the league title; the recruitment of David Moyes rather than a manager with more prestige, Wayne Rooney’s transfer request, the quite obviously futile pursuit of Cesc Fabregas – even the 4-1 win at Swansea had the echoes of a false dawn rather than the beginning of a new, successful era.

Moyes has also spent the last few months complaining about the fixture list – specifically regarding how his team have so many difficult games so early in the season. This, of course, overlooks the basic concept of a league format: everyone (who doesn’t get sacked after a bad start) plays everyone (who doesn’t get sacked after a bad start). Ah.
In fairness to David Moyes, many of United’s problems are not his fault. He inherited a team from a man who was so brilliant that – on the evidence of United’s ragtag collection of midfielders – he began taking a ‘look, no hands’ approach to management towards the end of his tenure.

Ashley Young is dreadful. Ryan Giggs is 40 in November. Antonio Valencia has spent the last 12 months looking incapable of beating a man or delivering a threatening cross (previously his main two strengths), while Anderson comes across as someone who has genuinely just given up at being a sportsman. As the only player who can actually complete the most basic of midfield tasks, Michael Carrick has essentially become one of United’s most important squad members by default.

Then there is Shinji Kagawa. After being seemingly mollycoddled in his debut season in English football, many expected to see more from the Japanese schemer in his follow-up year at the club. However, it appears that Moyes doesn’t like the cut of his jib quite as much as the critical onlookers do. And considering United’s results have, at best, been rather mixed, Kagawa’s omissions have been used as a stick to beat the Scot with.

Kagawa is quickly becoming considered a player Manchester United are worse without, despite any solid evidence they are actually any better with him. His action this season only provides us with a limited sample: his one start came against Bayer Leverkusen, where he was rather peripheral in United’s 4-2 victory.

However, being peripheral is absolutely fine for Kagawa. Hell, maybe even better than fine. While he didn’t perform particularly well against the German side, he didn’t do anything notably bad either. Rather than constantly failing to beat his opposing full-back or launching a profuse amount of poor crosses into, and subsequently out of, the penalty box as Young or Valencia would, he instead kept shtum.

Of course, it is the games that Kagawa hasn’t played in where his stock has really risen. By missing the entireties of the defeats to Liverpool and Manchester City, he was completely absolved of any sin. Indeed, the poor performances of those playing in similar positions to the Japanese, leads to a swirl of opinion that Kagawa should be playing and that United need him in order to avoid 4-1 defeat at Eastlands.

As United continue to sink without Kagawa, his stature appears higher and higher in comparison. But, despite the illusion, he hasn’t become any better than the player who was on the fringes of United’s title-winning side and only really put in a handful of notable performances, those around him just look worse.

So don’t feel sorry for Shinji Kagawa, he’s standing still. And the longer he does this for, the more chance he has of being found by someone with a nice long branch, and the willingness to pull him out. David Moyes and Ashley Young are the ones you should be worried for; they could end up sinking completely if they continue thrashing about.

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