As United supporters around the world await the completion of Shinji Kagawa’s transfer to Old Trafford, we catch up with Bundesliga expert Raphael Honigstein to shed light on the player set to become the Reds’ first Japanese signing…
How good a signing have United made?
It’s a brilliant signing. A lot of clubs would have liked to make the move, but United benefited from one of the rare instances where a player had really made up his mind that he wanted to play for a specific club. Of course money is important, but for him it was almost more of a romantic notion of joining United, and the others had no chance. They tried to get very near United’s offer, but Kagawa had made up his mind that this was his dream and he wasn’t going to pass up the opportunity. All sorts of clubs were trying to sign him and I think it’s a real coup for United to get him.
Which other clubs were interested in him?
Well, you never quite know just how far they got because the indications from the player and his agent were always very clear - that he was only going to move to United - so they didn’t get very far. I think Arsenal and Chelsea certainly looked at him, Real Madrid very late on in the game became aware of his potential, but United stole a march on everyone because the player wanted to go there. It’s easy to be cynical and sometimes players just sign for whoever offers the most money, but it’s fair to say this instance was different. He really wanted to go to United and wouldn’t listen to any other offers, as far as I’m aware.
What are his key attributes?
Kagawa isn't an Arjen Robben or a Franck Ribery type who picks up the ball and everyone starts shaking with fear; the guy almost works in a stealthier way. He finds space and he touches it when it’s already too late. He’ll find space behind a full-back or he’ll play someone in with a first touch pass and you maybe don’t have time to worry about him because he’s already outsmarted you. That’s the kind of stuff he does. He doesn’t run at people. He’s not a real winger. For Japan he plays out wide, but always with a constant view to cut in, and for Dortmund his best role was as a fairly free second striker in a more forward attacking role. He found space a lot of times on the left, would pop up on the right and