Shinji Kagawa

With the Premier League season just days old, we’re continuing to take a look at all 20 teams and the players we believe will make the difference for their clubs. Focusing on the players who are Making The Jump – young players ready to join the first team and make an impact, those players for whom this season is Make Or Break and those Season Makers who, should they perform to their highest capabilities, should be the key players for their respective clubs.

Shinji Kagawa has been somewhat of an enigma since his arrival at Manchester United in June 2012. Now entering his third campaign in the Premier League, you feel that if he is to finally break his way into first-team contention, this is his final chance.

Signed from Bundesliga outfit Borussia Dortmund, Kagawa arrived at Old Trafford with a hefty reputation as one of the most creative and impactful midfield players in Europe.

In the two years he plied his trade in the famous black and yellow shirts, he helped the club to historic back-to-back Bundesliga titles, as well as scoring and providing an assist in the DFB-Pokal Final against bitter rivals Bayern Munich in his final season.

Sir Alex Ferguson soon came calling, and Kagawa arrived at Old Trafford prior to the 2012/13 season.  He started well and had a good run in the first-team, scoring two goals and getting two assists before he was struck down with a knee injury in a Champions League victory over Braga. This injury kept him sidelined until January of 2013, and slowed his progress after what was an encouraging start.

Struggling to re-assert himself as a starter after his injury, Kagawa featured heavily as a substitute for Sir Alex Ferguson. It wasn’t until March of 2013 when Kagawa was given a first-team start against Norwich City that the Japanese international showed just what he was capable of with a hat trick, making him the first Asian Player to do so in Premier League history.

Despite his incredible hat-trick performance, Kagawa was still not a first-team regular and finished the campaign with a Premier League medal (the first Asian player to win one) but no assurances of first-team football.

That summer there were strong rumors of a return to Bundesliga outfit Borussia Dortmund but Kagawa opted to stay at Manchester United and fight for his place.

With Sir Alex Ferguson retired and David Moyes the new man in charge, Kagawa found first team places even harder to come by than the seasons before.  Starting only 14 games and not scoring a single goal, Kagawa became a source of real frustration for Manchester United fans as they endured their worst domestic campaign for decades.

Now with the Dutch coach Louis Van Gaal in charge at United, Kagawa yet again finds himself in purgatory at the club, especially as it seems Van Gaal has implemented a 3-5-2 style formation with Kagawa’s preferred No.10 position seemingly occupied by new Captain Wayne Rooney, marquee signing of last season Juan Mata or future star Adnan Januzaj. This could possibly force Kagawa into one of the wider positions, in which he doesn’t seem to flourish.

After an opening day defeat to Swansea City, Manchester United and Louis Van Gaal will be looking to their star players to raise their game or face being axed. Kagawa will be hoping to be given one more opportunity to prove his value at Old Trafford but knows that if he doesn’t take the chance, he probably won’t be given another.

Words by Ben Fawcett