Is This Man Half Of The Solution To United’s Midfield Woes?

3. Vision & Intelligence: Great midfielders make the game look simple, this lad plays as if he’s in slow motion. He spots runs very easily and due to the fact he’s very ambidextrous, he doesn’t need to waste that split second to get it on to his favoured foot, he can release the pass first time off either foot precisely with the right weight of pass. This is despite the fact in addition to this, he seems to have developed an extraordinary use of the outside of the foot pass, most players develop this technique to cater for the fact they’re one footed, he just seems to enjoy the fact it gives him extra unpredictability and he is very Scholesy-esque in the way he executes it. In addition to his intelligence in terms of through-balls and general ball retention, his awareness of how to move in and around the box in terms of locating pockets of space and timing of runs is excellent.

4. Finishing Ability:  There’s no point of making all those excellent runs if you don’t have the technique or the confidence to put chances away and whilst the latter may be in question with regards to whether he can regularly be relied upon to put chances away in a high pressure enviroment such as Manchester United, there’s no doubt that technically he’s a very complete goalscoring attacking midfielder. He can score volleys off either foot, finish with curls, chips, from the edge of the box or one v one. Long range shots to be honest are probably not a speciality but this is more due to the fact he likes to keep the ball and ensure he has a sure fire chance to score rather than take pot shots from distance. His heading is unlikely to be the second coming of Ronaldo, but he is capable of putting headers away and no doubt he has years to develop this side to his game.

5. Commercial Success: There has been much talk about how United are buying him for commercial success and no doubt, this aspect to him as a player has definitely drawn extra attention to him from Old Trafford circles. He is already a budding star in the east, but mark my words, when he signs he’ll be the greatest Asian Footballer to have left those shores – period. Unlike Park who seems abit overwhelmed with the attention he recieves, Kagawa is alot more self-confident and would take it in his stride, he’ll revel in being a far east poster boy. Nevertheless even if he didn’t possess this aspect to hm, I and many others would’ve advocated signing him anyway, his talent rather than his ethnicity speaks volumes.

Why Kagawa is only half the solution?

Despite marvelling at his attributes, one has to bear in mind he is slighly lightweight in terms of physique and experience in terms of being a big number 10 who dictates games on a regular basis. The likes of Messi, David Silva, Iniesta, Kroos, Ozil, Sniejder… they excel for club and country (bar Messi) due to the fact they have an excellent support structure in midfield, which allows them to move around the pitch without being man-marked too heavily and kicked out of the game. It is often cliched to say football is a team game and no individual on his own can make a difference, but when one looks at Messi for his club and Messi for his country, the saying has never been truer.

The modern game is so physically demanding it seems unlikely that a Maradona type player or even Ronaldinho at his pomp can transcend the averageness of his team mates and run a game single-handedly and that is players of extreme calibre we’re talking about. One only has to look at Eden Hazard’s recent performance for Belgium against Montenegro to realise just how difficult it is for the budding number 10 to completely dominate a game as an old school playmaker. He was made to look distinctly average and predictable, and he’s not alone, most top footballers who look great at club level, tend to look awful at international football tournements these days due to the improvements in organisation and fitness. Thus the point I’m trying to make is you need a strong team in terms of technique, movement, intelligence and a variety of threats, to bring the best out a modern playmaker and make no bones about it, Kagawa is without doubt an old school playmaker.

What United need to do to bring the best out of Kagawa and the team?

To truly create a functioning midfield which is capable of weaving the same patterns of play as Barcelona, Madrid, Bayern.. you need three players in a midfield which share similar characteristics to an extent. They must be intelligent, confident, technical, industrious and mobile… other than that, their actual qualities can be different and the roles they play can be divergent. Whereas at Barcelona there is Xavi, Iniesta, Busquets – at Madrid there is Ozil, Alonso & Khadeira, at Bayern there is Kroos, Schweinsteiger, Gustavo… at United, ideally Scholes, Giggs and Carrick as a trio on paper can match up, but in reality the former two lack the industry due to age to perform consistently at high intensity and furthermore Carrick for all his qualities in terms of reading the game defensively, doesn’t match up to the other simple passers aforementioned in terms of mobility, a key attribute which is often overlooked in defensive midfield players.

Thus to allow Kagawa to be our Ozil we need players similar to him terms of mobility, confidence and intelligence. Cleverley is perhaps the only younger player we possess on his wavelength. We need one more, as in my opinion Anderson just can’t be relied upon as he always has one major injury a year. The issue is however do we buy a young mobile defensive midfielder and allow Cleverly and Kagawa the freedom to run games in tandem or do we purchase a more deeper lying playmaker in the mould of Modric and use a combination of Carrick/Jones or Cleverley as our defensive midfielders. Either way one more midfield talent is needed in my opinion, if we want to make a mark on Europe. Kagawa alone might actually be enough to win the premiership bear in mind Vidic returning and hopefully a injury-free season from Cleverley, but if we want to aspire to a very high standard of play we need two playmakers and a mobile defensive midfielder.



It would be pretty mouth-watering in terms of possession, it might not be defensively strong and it lacks bite, but to be honest the Barcelona, Bayern and Madrid midfields lack bite and it doesn’t seem to be hurting their possession stats one bit. The need for an old school Keane like player in terms of personality is not really needed anymore, but what is needed is Keane’s presence, authority and understated elegance on the ball in those deeper positions. Cleverley has to take his game to the next level and remain injury free in order for United to get the best out of new recruits and take that midfield to the next level. Jones can possibly play in that position, but he’s abit gung ho and I just don’t think he has the intelligence of Cleverley on the ball or the nimble footwork.


In conclusion I think the signing of Kagawa is a brilliant one, if he’s the only purchase we make, our play will still undoubtedly go up a notch. With the return of Vidic, and the greater experience in general of our defenders we will go further in Europe this season and I think we could wrestle the title back from City. But in my opinion to truly get rid of the malaise which has been evident in this team since the back end of 07/08, we need to revolutionise our midfield. To truly compete with what will be a resurgent Barca, giving the likes of Scholes one year contracts is not going to help. Kagawa is just one half of the solution, the other half needs to be found.

Written by Raees Mahmood (follow me on

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!