Tuesday 19 November 2019

Kagawa adds a new dimension -- but waning Vidic a worry

Jason Burt

Ryan Giggs called it. The 38-year-old has seen it all and, on the eve of this encounter, he name-checked Shinji Kagawa as an addition who could add a dimension to Manchester United -- especially in the Champions League.

"Shinji is that kind of player who will thrive in Europe, where possession is key," Giggs claimed. "He keeps the ball and gets into positions where he is hard to pick up."

The Japanese star provided compelling evidence of that ability last night even if those around provided yet more evidence that United don't really like these group matches -- and that their defensive failings are turning into something of a malaise.

Maybe familiarity has become a burden, but United were saved by the woodwork and the failure of the officials to award Galatasaray a first-minute penalty.

But Kagawa (23) made the difference. Almost as quick of foot as he is of mind, he knitted United's attacking play together.

Nothing demonstrated that more than his sharp part in Michael Carrick's goal, dropping into the space on the edge of the penalty area, away from the central defenders to pick the perfectly weighted return pass to allow the midfielder to run on and eventually score for the first time in this competition for three years.

And Kagawa continued to be the man most likely to unlock Galatasaray. Time and again he slipped into that grey area, where defenders don't like to stray and midfielders are too pre-occupied in picking up their opposite numbers. Once there he turned and pushed the ball forward to add impetus or ran on himself so that space opened up for his darting team-mates.

Superbly he tracked back to nick the ball away from a Turkish boot and set United off on a counter-attack. There was another example of those quick feet when he collected Nani's pass, cut back inside and as he shaped to shoot he was only stopped by a fine intervention by Danny Nounkeu.

Robin van Persie's signing has rightly led to questions as to how the injured Wayne Rooney fits in, but it's Kagawa who is providing the extra element to United's play, although the concern for Alex Ferguson will not be his team's attacking play but the vulnerability at the back.

After his injury, Nemanja Vidic doesn't look the same dominant character, Patrice Evra appears to be struggling, Jonny Evans also, while Rafael continues to show that defending is not his strongest point. For Galatasaray, Hamit Altintop was running riot, rivalling Kagawa as the contest's most creative player.

Worryingly, and perhaps to provide further evidence that physically he does need to sharpen up, Kagawa's influence began to subside, although he sparked into life to release Nani with another clever pass. There was another smart touch to create space for a shot that was blocked and he continued to be United's biggest threat especially with Van Persie strangely subdued and inevitably substituted. Kagawa remained on. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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