Can Kagawa Rebound?

Joining Premier League side Manchester United in the summer of 2012 was described by Shinji Kagawa as "fulfilling a lifetime dream."

That dream however quickly became a nightmare, as the player was rarely played in his favoured central position by Alex Ferguson in the Scot's final season at Old Trafford. Instead, the Japanese play maker found himself marooned out wide to accommodate Wayne Rooney, who was generally deployed behind fellow signing Robin van Persie, or he was left out of the side entirely.

His former Dortmund manager J├╝rgen Klopp opined: "Shinji Kagawa is one of the best players in the world and he now plays 20 minutes at Manchester United - on the left wing.

"My heart breaks. Really, I have tears in my eyes. Central midfield is Shinji's best role. He's an offensive midfielder with one of the best noses for goal I ever saw.

"But for most Japanese people it means more to play for Man United than Dortmund. We cried for 20 minutes, in each others' arms, when he left."

Despite these difficulties there was flashes of quality from Kagawa, particularly his terrific hat-trick against Norwich in March 2013. He was later named Man of the Match against Swansea City in Ferguson's last match in charge of United at Old Trafford.

If the first season had been tough at times for the player who had been named by Kicker Magazine to the Bundesliga Team of the Season in both 2010–11 and 2011–12, he surely had no idea what was in store for him under Ferguson's successor David Moyes.

Right away the former Everton boss minimized Kagawa's role in the side, despite pleas from elements of the United support who recognized Kagawa's intelligent movement and passing. When he did feature, the Japanese international was again not played in his preferred position and he further struggled to come to terms with the system Moyes was trying to implement.

With the signing in the January transfer window of Spanish play maker Juan Mata, Kagawa must have seen the writing on the wall.

Any thoughts of finding a permanent place in the United side under Moyes replacement, Louis van Gaal, were quickly dispelled as the player who United had bought for £12 million, just two short years ago, was sold back to Dortmund for a cut race price of £6.3 million.

Van Gaal had made it pretty clear that Kagawa was not in his plans prior to the sale and it was a pity that a player who had looked so promising when he joined United was never really given a proper run in the side. 

Now the question is, back in the familiar environment of the Westfalenstadion can the player return to the form that had helped Dortmund to a terrific Bundesliga and DFB-Pokal double in 2012?

Dortmund teammate Sebastian Kehl seems to think so and was quoted in Sport Bild as saying, "He gets a lot of faith here. Everything that he's been missing in the past few months, he'll get back here again."

If Kagawa, who is still only 25 years old, can rediscover his form, there no more likely a place for him to do it than with Dortmund.

Although the club has had some notable players leave in the past two summers, they are still considered to be one of the strongest clubs in the Bundesliga and will likely prove stern opposition, once again, to perennial powerhouse Bayern Munich.

Dortmund fans in the meantime are more than happy to have Kagawa back at the club, within a day of his signing the club had sold over 5,000 shirts.

Here's hoping he can get his career back on track and show the quality he had before his ill-fated stint at Old Trafford.


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