First of all to old readers, welcome back and I don’t know what the future holds (not that is not a subtle homage to Cristiano) but  hopefully it involves  having some free time to put in some consistent blogging.

Anyway the year out from blogging has probabbly helped maintain my sanity because United were quite frankly very below par this season, in a league that was in general quite poor once again – despite some proclaiming it as the ‘most exciting ever’.

Yes it was exciting but with all respect, we and the league in general got our asses handed to us by Europe in terms of performance levels albeit Chelsea somehow, unbelievably so managed to defy all realms of logic and hoofballed their way towards a rather unmemorable European Cup triumph which will not be looked back upon fondly by history – unless of course John Terry on retirement becomes footballs answer to Herodotus.

The key problem areas with the english teams that leads them to look so second rate and have to resort to parking the bus at times is the midfield.  For some reason (people always talk about it as if its an unsolvable mystery), english teams are always made to look agricultural in midfield and resort to playing on the counter and failing to take the game to the opposition. It hasn’t harmed the likes of Chelsea and United particularly, due to the fact they’re excellent defensively although standards have been slipping in this regard due to ageing stalwarts such as Terry, Ferdinand, Evra, Vidic, Van der Sar, Cech either retiring, being injured or losing a yard of pace/hunger. Nevertheless the lack of good defences in Europe generally at the moment means these two teams are still world class defensively even  though even the most casual observer would be capable of telling they’re not particularly performing at a world class level in comparison to say 2007/08.

However this summer has seen both teams try to take the first tentative steps towards  evolving and finally adopting the Barcelona style of play. Chelsea have signed Marin and Hazard, whilst already possessing the nimble footwork of Mata and the vastly underrated in terms of technical ability Ramires in their ranks. If administered correctly, they could be dominating possession stats next term and give Man City a run for their money. It’s clear that the desire at Stamford Bridge is to move away from a power based game to a more  technical, finesse possession-based style more in line with Abramovic’s vision.

Are United in danger of being left behind? well as it stands, quite frankly we don’t have a midfield capable of winning the CL, far far from it, a midfield which finishes the fourth highest in terms of amount of possession per game in the Premier League ( (57.3%), behind Arsenal (59.6%), Manchester City (57.7%), and Swansea City (57.6%)) doesn’t have a leg to stand on with regards to being able to outplay the likes of Barca, unless of course the footballing goods are smiling on you like they did on Chelsea.  But wouldn’t it be nice to actually win the European Cup and be dominant, utterly brilliant and fearless in doing so?

The pursuit of Hazard and Kagawa  demonstrates that perhaps finally Fergie has grasped the importance of the fluid midfield and how it correlates to controlling games in modern football and that a move away from wing-dominated thinking is imminent. Or perhaps, Fergie has just been biding his time for the right players to come along at the right prices, I presume its the latter, the great man has never really let us down and usually always clocks on to trends within the game and gets it right eventually.

Why signinng Kagawa is a masterstroke

Statistics (courtesy of ESPN:

Season 2010/11 (International & Club):

  • Games Played: 49 (4 as Sub) , Goals: 21 Assists: 10

Season 2011/12 (International & Club):

  •  Games Played: 31 (1 as Sub) , Goals scored, 17 Assists: 2

There are a number of flaws with the current United midfield. It lacks mobility, it lacks creativity, it lacks goals, it lacks quick thinking and awareness, it lacks bite, it lacks leadership. Look at the list I’ve just given and compare that to the United midfield of 1999-2001.. yep exactly.  There were two reasons why that United midfield ticked all the boxes, two reasons why it was so complete that it was capable of matching up to the likes of Real Madrid and Juventus at their peaks. Messers Keane and Scholes, two such different yet complementary players, a dynamic/tough/creative midfield duo which despite the averageness of the strikers in front of it, never allowed United to ever come second best or be embarassed in a game. Yes we’d have a few losses, but I can’t remember many games in which those two at their pomp allowed us to look second rate.. . put it this way, what Athletic Bilbao done to us this year, would simply not have been allowed to happen if Scholes and Keane in their pomp were playing for us in midfield. Both of them were elegent and mobile on the ball, Keane was no Edgar Davids in terms of on the ball talent, but he was good enough on it to never be shy of carrying it even under pressure and this meant him and Scholes could trust each other in tight spots and this in turn encouraged the defenders to always release the ball to them rather than look to play it long or back to the keeper.

What individual attributes would Kagawa bring to this United Side?

So yeah why is Kagawa such a vital signing? well look back at that list of flaws. Anyone that has watched Kagawa closely and there are a few full match complilations of Japan matches on youtube for those who have never had the chance to watch him over a full 90 mins for Dortmund, would no doubt vouch for the following attributes.

1. Mobility (Technique & Agility): On the ball this lad is quite simply brilliant. There are many who were dying over Eden Hazard and many of the same are now ridiculing his talent for choosing Chelsea over us, but in my personal opinion this lad was always the superior signing in terms of what United needed. He has a class and economy on the ball you can’t teach, he doesn’t need to resort to trickery not that he doesn’t have it in his locker – I assure you he does – but he beats players with feints, his two-footedness, close Barcelona-esque dribbling. In addition to this he doesn’t linger on the ball despite being such a good dribbler he’s entitled to, but he knows the right places when to and when not to dribble.

2. Industry: This lad glides across the pitch like a  Iniesta and eats up ground for fun. One second he’ll be by the halfway line turning his man and unleashing a 40 yard pass, the next he’s in the box getting on the end of the cross to the winger he just supplied. Hands up if you reckon Anderson has showed as much movement over the course of a season? He never stops moving and whereas someone like Rooney who despite his famed ‘never stops running’doesn’t really have the movement and innate fitness of a true number 10, Kagawa is like a younger Scholes, a player who doesn’t stop trying to make things happen rather than get frustrated at his team mates for not getting him into the game.

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11 responses to “Is This Man Half Of The Solution To United’s Midfield Woes?”

  1. ManUtdMonki says:

    Brilliant article. Totally agree with everything mentioned except the idea of Kagawa being our only signing. Ideally I’d like Kagawa, Baines, a striker (Cisse/Lewandowski/Ba) and a defensive minded midfielder (Martinez/M’Villa/Tiote/Assamoah). Up United. MUFC

  2. mike kama says:

    I disagree with you on the fact that the game has moved from wing play and counter-attacks to sole mid-field possession play! This is just subject to a team Ethos and United’s has only been let down by the fact that that midfield has no attacker! Leave alone the possession bit! What use is possession if you can’t even score a goal, refering to both Bayern and Barca-the supposed gods of football! Chelsea showed grit and confidence in the face of utter annihilation! It’s true that English footbal has been left behind but it’s not in the tiki-taka play, but rather in the speed and technical side of it! It’s no longer factual that EPL football is the most fast paced in the world! Manchester United used ot destroy teams with their pace and fitness, just ask Bayern! But this was lost over the years and Sir Alex’s refusal to invest in younger hungrier players especially in that CM has hurt the club! Now he’s at least focusing on the right areas and I believe with Kagawa and Cleverley in mid taking up attack from Paul’s Mastery mid control, this will be a team that will shock most in the attacking threat it possess! Hazard will fail at Chelsea, that’s a fact! Chelsea dry him out like they did Robben and Deco and the many others who perished in the blank lack of creativity that is Chelsea FC! What Sir Alex has to stop is investing in risks with no clear promise of quality! As much as I appreciate Carrick and Fletcher, United don’t need any more of them, there’re too many! Petrucci and Lingaard and Cole! These kids are the future, I just hope they’re United’s future! Technical skill and close ball control, that is England’s archilles in Europe! Doesn’t matter how much possession you win if you can keep the ball from nibbling and extremely fit little pests like Pedro, Iniesta and the likes! Fitness and ball control, that is the future of football, that is Barcelona’s legacy!

    • RedRae7 says:

      I actually concur with you about not letting go of our roots. Wideplay as proven by Barca’s failure this year is essential in order to create chances in a game which is crowded up in midfield.

      Nevertheless I think United’s midfield has been to blame for not letting us get the best out of our wide players, the collection that we have is up there in world football terms but i feel that we don’t get the best out of them by being so predictable and hitting it out wide at every given opportunity.

      If we sort out the creativity from the middle and score more goals from through balls, it’ll make us less predictable and Rooney and Welbeck will thrive.

      I also like your idea of increased fitness, one of our problems has been with the likes of Scholes and Carrick, we haven’t been able to press high up the pitch and win the ball closer to goal. We’re playing very reactive football instead of proactive. This is solved by having more dynamism and the likes of Clverley and Kagawa are definitely dynamic.

  3. Roger says:

    Very insightful article. Kagawa will boost us but as you write; he’s only half the solution. Now SAF must identify the other half. In my opinion there’s (at least) three alternatives:
    * buy another playmaker-esque type, like Modric or Sneijdeer and let Carrick, Jones or Cleverly – or Fletcher if he comes back – sort out who’d play the balancing role. Modric, Sneijder, one of the Athl.Bilbao-guys?
    * Buy a physical robust, balancing type in the Toure, Essien mould and let Cleverley or Carrick pair up with Kagawa. Schweinsteiger, Dembele, De Rossi, Hamsik?
    * Buy a lethal, strong striker and let Rooney or Young play beside Kagawa. The lad from Dortmund, Demba Ba, Cisse or – mouthwatering – Van Persie..?

    Some outsiders as well: Dempsey, Torres.

    And; yes we might need a defender or two. The right back position is not sorted, and the signs was there for all to read regarding Evra. Sir Alex must decide if Jones or Smalling shall be first choice at RB – and stick with it. At left we need a new player and Baines would be brilliant. In the middle we’re sorted if Vidic comes back.

  4. Meetrohan18 says:

    Nice article but I think there is an implication that a 5man midfield is the solution.kind of shows that Kagawa might be hard to be incorporated perfectly into a 4 man midfield. With welbeck showing a lot of promise and Rooney more effective as a no.10 hard to see United go consistently for a 451 formation.

  5. Adam says:

    There is a lot of fire around this Kwadwo Asamoah story and I wouldn’t be surprised if we are trying to sign him. He is a midfielder who is solid defensively and can move forward as well. There saying his price tag is 15 million Euro which falls into our price range.

    I would love Luka Modric, but the idea of spendind the summer dealing with Tottenham is horrible. I think we should put a £32 million bid on the table and tell them that is there to be accepted, otherwise we are fine. If the player wants to join then he can do what needs to be done. Kagawa and Asamoah would be good additions to the midfield. They are both very young and would cost very reasonably to be honest.

  6. kel says:

    I like your article and shows we had assure and thoughtful fans =) Kagawa is really good, he is fast, good on ball, good with passing and through balls and have no fear on bringing the ball forward and like you say, he always try to make things happen instead of showing frustration at his team mate.

    He has a lot in his locker and if he play to his best at United, i believe we had one of a hell of attacking midfield and ready to conquer the world.

  7. MUdslinger606 says:

    Might return to eat my words about this but is Pogba to Juve a cert?

    I’d happily use Hazard money to keep Pogba here and use him as a foil for Kagawa and/or Cleverley in midfield. He’d fit the bill being young, technically gifted yet industrious and busy in the midfield.

  8. MUdslinger606 says:

    …especially with the match fixing lark rearing it’s ugly head in Serie A again, any chance we could keep hold of the boy?

  9. Steve says:

    I agree that Kagawa is an excellent signing for the team. He is very technical and intelligent which is what we need badly.

    We do need more quality in midfield and I watched the England v Belgium to specifically watch Moussa Dembele. I know everyone wanted to see Eden Hazard and he never impressed really to warrant such hype. I was though very impressed by Dembele.

    He was excellent in centre of midfield and has good tackling, dribbling and passing ability. An incredible statistic is that he won the 2nd most tackles in the league last season. I think he would be a great signing for Man Utd, especially at a possible £10-11 million transfer fee.

    He was very impressive in Holland and this season he has shone in England. He is 24 and so is coming to his best years now. If he plays around better players like Young, Rooney, Carrick and Valencia then he will be even better and will score more goals like he did in Holland.

  10. N33 says:

    Top article. Enjoyed reading the depth in argument . Welcome back!