Two minutes later, Kagawa picked out van Persie on the right of the box and the striker’s first-time cross was headed over by an unmarked Phil Jones from eight yards. That was the signal for a mid-half drinks break, an unusual event but one that served to illustrate how draining the conditions were in sultry Osaka.
Upon the resumption, a lapse in the United defence allowed a pass to reach Sugimoto on the edge of the box, but the forward curled a left-footed shot wide.
And Cerezo continued to threaten the Reds, with Edno spurning their best chance to that point when he headed tamely at Lindegaard from six yards.
So it was not a huge surprise when the home side took the lead in the 34th minute. Chris Smalling’s attempted pass on the edge of the box was intercepted and fell to Sugimoto, who turned Alex Büttner and wrong-footed Lindegaard with a low shot into the corner.
Kagawa missed a glorious opportunity to score five minutes before half-time. Danny Welbeck turned his man on the left of the box and his shot cannoned off the inside of the post. Van Persie picked up the rebound and squared for Kagawa, who scooped the ball over with the goal at his mercy and threw himself to the ground in dismay.
Home keeper Kim continued to impress and palmed away a goal-bound Ryan Giggs curler, before Welbeck drove narrowly wide in the last meaningful action of the half.
Anderson replaced Jones but United did not look likely to break through until Ashley Young was upended as he charged into the box and the referee pointed to the spot.
Kagawa stepped forward but fluffed his big moment as Kim diverted his tame penalty. However, the Japanese was not to be denied and, in the 54th minute, slotted home from a narrow angle after being found by Giggs. The home fans chanted Kagawa’s name but it was to be the midfielder’s last contribution as he was replaced by Zaha.