Charm, talent, cheeky grin. Shinji Kagawa's Manchester United love affair begins
Alex Ferguson's new £13m midfielder has the flamboyance to handle Old Trafford pressure
Shinji Kagawa manufactured a moment every Manchester United supporter ought to savour while being unveiled as his side's new signing on a four-year deal yesterday. The eyes of the football world were watching when a Japanese journalist asked how he was developing as a player and about the challenge of playing at Old Trafford.
Looking towards his trusty interpreter on the right, Kagawa allowed himself the cheekiest of small grins, excitement silently screaming, before relaying: "I've always said I have to improve my playing qualities; now I've been here a bit I can really feel the difference. I'm happy to be here and every day I'll take the chance to improve myself. It's definitely the greatest challenge of my career."
It was clear to see the midfielder, on looking at the packed press room and answering questions, knew he had arrived and that this was his destiny. Looking at him taking all this in, you sensed someone special might be embarking on a love affair with the Premier League.
The possession of a confidence crucial to becoming a success was evident, but that was exuded safe in the knowledge there are a magnitude of reasons why Sir Alex Ferguson decided to pay Borussia Dortmund £13m for his services.
Kagawa was able to charm his fellow countrymen who had flocked to Old Trafford – something the outgoing South Korean Park Ji-Sung has never properly grasped during his time in England. The personalities of the two are starkly different. Park mirrored his play on the pitch off the field as a functional speaker, while the new, bright-eyed flamboyance of Kagawa's first public outing should be paralleled when the new season starts in earnest next month.
"I definitely feel the attention of the media globally now. I'm a member of a great club at Manchester United. I think I can handle the pressure and am pretty confident I can adapt to the style of the Premier League," he said.
That adapting, his manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, explained, is as much mastering the language as anything else. The footballing basics of taking onboard instructions without the need of translation need to be learned.
Kagawa did not know the German language while at Dortmund, but it is clear that a pre-requisite of his big move was that he would learn English. Ferguson joked that he could even attempt Scottish if that were easier. "Language is very important to me," Kagawa said. "I'm very motivated to learn English; I hope I can learn it quickly so I can communicate with my team-mates very soon."
Playing behind the striker is his forte. Kagawa's movement between the lines was something Ferguson's side lacked last season, where for spells they looked too one-paced to win the title. He has a willingness to get beyond the striker and has the ability to unlock defences as devastatingly as David Silva – skills Wayne Rooney will have observed with relish. That is before looking at his goalscoring record. Kagawa netted 17 goals for Dortmund last season, including the opener in the German Cup final against Bayern Munich and a fine finish against Arsenal in the Champions League. Dortmund captured him for a measly €350,000 two years ago – the transfer fee represents quite a return for them following back-to-back Bundesliga titles. For United, sentences such as "everything here shows me it's a really big club and it's a great honour to play here, I want to really contribute by achieving concrete results", endear him to the supporters and represent a realisation that he needs to hit the ground running.
Kagawa has the charm and the talent to be a success at United. But news filtered out yesterday that he turned down the famous No 7 shirt. We'll have to wait and see if he has the temperament...
Barclays will pay almost 50 per cent more to renew its sponsorship of the Premier League, despite the bank being embroiled in a rate-fixing scandal. The League will receive £120m over three years from the 2013-14 season, a jump from £82m under the current terms.
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