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Kagawa can be a Reds star
We spoke to Japanese football journalist Koki Harada, of Tokyo Chunichi Sports, about United's newest recruit...
Was United’s interest in Shinji one of football’s worst-kept secrets?
I guess it was. The speculation has been all over the English and Japanese media for weeks and many fans have been waiting for the transfer to happen. Now it’s been confirmed and everyone in Japan will be really excited. There have been Japanese players in the Premier League in the past – Junichi Inamoto at Fulham, Hidetoshi Nakata at Bolton and, last season, Ryo Miyaichi at Bolton. But United is a bigger club than those and Kagawa has the potential to be a big star.
What sort of player is Kagawa and is he like any of the current United squad?
United have no similar players. He’s a bit like Samir Nasri or Luka Modric and creates lots of chances, but scores more goals than either of them. His best position is just behind the striker, where he played at Dortmund, but he can also play on the left, though he’s not the quickest of players. I can see Sir Alex tinkering with his formation to play him in a 4-3-2-1. It’s brilliant that he’ll get the chance to work with a wonderful midfielder like Paul Scholes.
What kind of success did he have at Dortmund?
He adapted very quickly after moving to Germany from the J-League in 2010 and has been instrumental in helping them to back-to-back Bundesliga titles, particularly in last season’s Double triumph. He’s shown a very high level of performance, scoring and creating plenty of goals. Dortmund were reluctant to let him go but for Shinji, it’s hard to turn down United.
And what about his impact at national level?
He’s undoubtedly one of the stars of the current Japan team, though you’re more likely to see him on the wing as Keisuke Honda usually occupies that role behind the striker at international level. With Kagawa in the side, Japan have an excellent chance of qualifying for the World Cup finals again. Nakata was once our country’s biggest star, then Honda, but now it’s Kagawa.
Can you see him having a long and career at United?
Certainly. He doesn’t speak English very well yet and may struggle to understand Sir Alex at first, but if his time in Germany is anything to go by, he’ll adapt to the culture in England very quickly. His time with Dortmund will benefit him and I also think Ji-sung Park will be a big help. Park can be his role model, as an Asian player who moved to United and enjoyed success. The good thing about Kagawa is his attitude: he always wants to learn and that’s why I think he’ll do well at United.
Who will Shinji have spoken to about moving to the Premier League?
He’s been on international duty recently and we know that he spoke to Miyaichi about what it’s like to play in England. Japan faced Oman in a World Cup qualifier last week and he also had a chat with their goalkeeper Ali Al-Habsi, who plays for Wigan.
What will the news mean to United fans in Japan?
It’s huge. We know United have an enormous following in Japan. I think they’re the most popular European club for the older generation, while they’re perhaps second behind Barcelona for younger fans – though that might change now! You can expect to see plenty of United shirts with ‘Kagawa’ on the back in Tokyo!