Sir Alex Ferguson: Shinji Kagawa's best is yet to come at Manchester United

Scot blame the physical challenge of the Premier League for Japan international's slow start

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The Independent Football

Sir Alex Ferguson says Manchester United fans will see the best of Shinji Kagawa next season, after the midfielder's tough term acclimatising to the English game.

Sir Alex paid Borussia Dortmund £17m for the Japan international in the summer, and says Kagawa has been scuppered by the leap in physicality from the Bundesliga to the Premier League.

He said: “The difference between German and English football is that in Germany you can’t foul. You are not allowed to touch anyone in Germany, so he has come from that environment to the Premier League, which is totally different.

“There is a physicality to our game which is different from Germany, but next year he’ll be better."

Kagawa was withdrawn from Wednesday's Champions League last-16 tie against Real Madrid early in the second half, after struggling to make an impact.

The 23-year-old, recently back from 10 weeks out with an injury, was replaced by Ryan Giggs and is expected to start tonight's FA Cup match against Reading on the bench.

Ferguson may recall Nemanja Vidic, Tom Cleverley, Anderson, Ashley Young and Javier Hernández to the side tonight, and said: “You have to keep them all contributing and keep them involved.

“It isn’t easy because there were a lot of disappointed players on Wednesday and I don’t think anyone expected me to pick that team, but we did and it was OK."

And Sir Alex's opposite number tonight, Brian McDermott, reckons United's dominance in this season's Premier League is down to the bitter disappointment of losing the title to Manchester City in the final seconds of last season.

McDermott said: "It's a surprise to see United so far ahead in the Premier League when you look at the calibre of opposition they're up against.

"They're 12 points in front with 12 games to go and Sir Alex Ferguson won't take anything for granted, there's no doubt about that. To move on the way they did from last season, to take that on to the pitch and that hurt, tells you the power of the people there.

"The hurt that day would have given them a tough summer. But you have two ways of going: you either go under as a club or get stronger. United have got stronger."