Today Manchester United have announced that a deal to sign Japanese midfielder Shinji Kagawa from German side Borussia Dortmund has been agreed. It is thought the initial fee for Kagawa is around £12m, rising to £17m depending on success and appearances.
The 23-year-old needs to pass a medical and obtain a UK work permit, but the Old Trafford club expect both to be completed by the end of June.
Kagawa scored 17 goals in 40 appearances for Jürgen Klopp’s side as Dortmund won the Bundesliga title for the second successive season and eased to a 5-2 victory over Bayern Munich in the German Cup final. Ferguson was present at this match, as he witnessed Kagawa scoring one of Dortmund’s five goals.
This season, the Japanese midfielder has taken a more prominent playmaking role for his club side, following Mario Gotze’s hip injury in the second half of the season. Despite playing alongside some of the most sought after players in Europe, Kagawa stood out as a key player in the German champion’s squad.
Kagawa’s acquisition could have widespread ramifications for both United’s tactical shape, style of play and personnel. Indeed, word is that Ferguson wants to return his side to a more expansive, one-touch, fast-paced style that was last seen late summer, 2011, but disappeared after the 8-2 thrashing by Manchester City at Old Trafford.
Kagawa has progressed at Borussia Dortmund since a €350,000 move from Cerezo Osaka in the J-League two summers ago. The Japanese player has become a central part of Dortmund’s tactical make-up during the last two title-winning campaigns – representing remarkable progress from the years spent in Japan. Kagawa made over 100 appearances in the lower reaches of Japanese football before moving to Europe, and into Dortmund’s first team.
When Kagawa joins he will surely be deployed in the shadow of a lone-striker, having rarely played in a midfield two during a fledgling European career. Most comfortable deployed between-the-lines of midfield and attack, Kagawa could help rid United of predictability by adding a sense of creativity which has been dearly missed since Cristiano Ronaldo’s departure. This could be especially important against sides tending to park the bus at Old Trafford. While others have played off the front man in Ferguson’s time, few is any have been a specialist in that position.
Ferguson seems likely to use Kagawa in the Japanese player’s favoured role between midfield and attack in a 4-2-3-1 system that is a gradual evolution of the formation most regularly used in coming second to City.
With the Japanese in the team, Rooney is more likely to be deployed further forward, with two from Michael Carrick, Paul Scholes, Anderson, Darren Fletcher and Tom Cleverley playing through central midfield. However, unless Ferguson brings in another, more traditional, midfielder this summer United is still likely to face searching questions through the centre of the park. While Carrick performed admirably in recent months, Scholes turns 38 in November. Meanwhile, Anderson and Cleverley struggled to remain fit throughout the entirety of last season, while Fletcher’s long-term future in the game remains in doubt due to illness.
Time will tell whether Ferguson’s first foray into the market for a genuine ‘number 10? is an experiment worth making. Or, indeed, whether the outlay on the Japanese player turns out to be half the return of Hazard’s huge fee, or double the value.
There are still many key pieces missing from the United squad, but there’s plenty of time left to solve these issues during the summer transfer window. With many great players who would love to go to Old Trafford and play under Sir Alex, there should be no problems going into the new season. Regardless, the signing of Shinji Kagawa is a sign of intent from United, they now have a potential key player who will provide the first steps to being re-crowned Premier League Champions.