It was a game that might have brought tears to Jürgen Klopp's eyes. Manchester United, over-reliant on a redeeming Wayne Rooney, required creativity from their cautious midfield, but Shinji Kagawa remained rooted to the substitutes' bench as the champions' drew against an unadventurous Chelsea side.

A benchwarmer for the club's first three games of the new campaign, Kagawa has not had a single kick yet in the Premier League, and David Moyes erroneously turned to 39-year-old Ryan Giggs in a bid to inject some enterprise into a stagnant game. Giggs is alarmingly wasteful in possession but occasionally provides an assist to paper over his shortcomings, but could not provide the killer pass on Monday night and failed to justify his cameo.

Though Kagawa has not had a satisfactory pre-season, tiredness is not an excuse. He emerged as a substitute in the Community Shield over two weeks ago and has not had any game-time since whereas Giggs, on the brink of 40, was chosen ahead of him at Swansea and for Chelsea's visit.

shinji kagawa

Kagawa was largely wasted by Ferguson last season


Amazed the Japanese is still under-used and unappreciated at United, Borussia Dortmund fans started a #freeShinji hashtag on Tuesday. Klopp, their coach, would have been equally dumbfounded.

"Shinji Kagawa is one of the best players in the world and he now plays 20 minutes at Manchester United – on the left wing! My heart breaks," Klopp told the Guardian in May. "Really, I have tears in my eyes."

United pulled off a coup in signing Kagawa. He was meticulously scouted and, at £17 million, bought at a generous price. He had excelled in two glittering seasons with Dortmund in the Bundesliga and when Mario Götze was sidelined through injury, it was Kagawa who ensured he wouldn't be missed. In the 2012 DFB-Pokal final, he and Robert Lewandowski lacerated Bayern Munich in a devastating 5-2 win.

shinji kagawa robert lewandowski

Kagawa was devastating in the 2012 DFB-Pokal final


One year on, and black and yellow fans chanted Kagawa's name in Madrid ahead of their Champions League semi-final second leg. Klopp even asked the 24-year-old if he would like to return to the Westfalenstadion in the summer after only one year in Manchester, but Kagawa declined. His former club have made their feelings known.

For all his ingenuity, Kagawa has predictably stalled at United, through little fault of his own. He was a victim of Sir Alex Ferguson's tinkering and, through the Scot's own admission, his hesitation.

"I’d already given the fourth official the card," Ferguson explained when asked about Kagawa's baffling substitution at West Ham in April. "Javier [Hernández] was stood on the touchline when we scored the second goal.

shinji kagawa west ham

Kagawa created two goals but was subbed at West Ham


"I think if I’d have changed my decision then I think we’d have won the game because Shinji was doing really well," he added.

It summarised Kagawa's season. A two-month lay-off in the autumn and winter hindered his progress but he remained on the periphery when fit and when Wayne Rooney made it clear he wanted to leave the club.

Kagawa is arguably too sophisticated for the Premier League. He excelled in the Bundesliga, the best league on the continent the last three years, showcasing the kind of enviable energy and seamless passing which elevated Germany's two biggest clubs to the Champions League final this year. English football's regression, however, continues and Kagawa is a casualty of the backward-thinking, as the emphasis on a player's build rather than their ability dominates.

Yet he should be anointed a pivotal role in this United team. Danny Welbeck predictably struggled on the left versus Chelsea because he is about as happy playing there as Rooney is, even if he doesn't express it. It is a role tailor-made for Kagawa, which makes his overall exclusion on Monday all the more mysterious.

leighton baines

Baines would benefit Kagawa if he joins United


Kagawa making headway hinges heavily on Leighton Baines, though. In his first official match in charge of United at the Community Shield, Moyes instructed Patrice Evra to occupy the dual-role Baines continues to carry out at Everton, playing as both left-back and left-winger. The caveat is Evra, at 32, is not young enough to perform this as tirelessly as Baines and his crossing is too erratic.

Baines' link up play with Steven Pienaar is probably the best left-sided combination in the Premier League, but Pienaar drifts centrally, which is exactly where Kagawa should be playing, according to Klopp.

"Central midfield is Shinji's best role," Klopp added. "He's an offensive midfielder with one of the best noses for goal I ever saw."

Though it would appear Kagawa is competing with Rooney for one coveted role, the pair can start matches together without treading on each other's foot. Rooney would be allowed to support Robin van Persie more ably with Kagawa craftily operating between opponents' midfield and defence.

Loading Slideshow...
  • Borussia Dortmund v Borussia Moenchengladbach - Bundesliga

    DORTMUND, GERMANY - APRIL 21: (L-R) Head coach Juergen Klopp embraces Shinji Kagawa of Dortmund after scoring the second goal during the 1. Bundesliga match between Borussia Dortmund an Borussia Moenchengladbach at Signal Iduna Park on April 21, 2012 in Dortmund, Germany. (Photo by Christof Koepsel/Bongarts/Getty Images)

  • Borussia Dortmund v Borussia Moenchengladbach - Bundesliga

    DORTMUND, GERMANY - APRIL 21: (L-R) Head coach Juergen Klopp embraces Shinji Kagawa of Dortmund after scoring the second goal during the 1. Bundesliga match between Borussia Dortmund an Borussia Moenchengladbach at Signal Iduna Park on April 21, 2012 in Dortmund, Germany. (Photo by Christof Koepsel/Bongarts/Getty Images)

  • Borussia Dortmund v Borussia Moenchengladbach - Bundesliga

    DORTMUND, GERMANY - APRIL 21: (L-R) Head coach Juergen Klopp embraces Shinji Kagawa of Dortmund after scoring the second goal during the 1. Bundesliga match between Borussia Dortmund an Borussia Moenchengladbach at Signal Iduna Park on April 21, 2012 in Dortmund, Germany. (Photo by Christof Koepsel/Bongarts/Getty Images)

  • Borussia Dortmund v Borussia Moenchengladbach - Bundesliga

    DORTMUND, GERMANY - APRIL 21: (L-R) Head coach Juergen Klopp embraces Shinji Kagawa of Dortmund after scoring the second goal during the 1. Bundesliga match between Borussia Dortmund an Borussia Moenchengladbach at Signal Iduna Park on April 21, 2012 in Dortmund, Germany. (Photo by Christof Koepsel/Bongarts/Getty Images)

  • Borussia Dortmund v Borussia Moenchengladbach - Bundesliga

    DORTMUND, GERMANY - APRIL 21: (L-R) Head coach Juergen Klopp embraces Shinji Kagawa of Dortmund after scoring the second goal during the 1. Bundesliga match between Borussia Dortmund an Borussia Moenchengladbach at Signal Iduna Park on April 21, 2012 in Dortmund, Germany. (Photo by Christof Koepsel/Bongarts/Getty Images)

  • Borussia Dortmund v Borussia Moenchengladbach - Bundesliga

    DORTMUND, GERMANY - APRIL 21: (L-R) Shinji Kagawa is substituted by head coach Juergen Klopp of Dortmund during the 1. Bundesliga match between Borussia Dortmund an Borussia Moenchengladbach at Signal Iduna Park on April 21, 2012 in Dortmund, Germany. (Photo by Christof Koepsel/Bongarts/Getty Images)

  • Borussia Dortmund v Borussia Moenchengladbach - Bundesliga

    DORTMUND, GERMANY - APRIL 21: (L-R) Shinji Kagawa is substituted by head coach Juergen Klopp of Dortmund during the 1. Bundesliga match between Borussia Dortmund an Borussia Moenchengladbach at Signal Iduna Park on April 21, 2012 in Dortmund, Germany. (Photo by Christof Koepsel/Bongarts/Getty Images)

  • Borussia Dortmund v Borussia Moenchengladbach - Bundesliga

    DORTMUND, GERMANY - APRIL 21: (L-R) Marcel Schmelzer, Mats Hummels, head coach Juergen Klopp and Shinji Kagawa of Dortmund celebrate the second goal during the 1. Bundesliga match between Borussia Dortmund an Borussia Moenchengladbach at Signal Iduna Park on April 21, 2012 in Dortmund, Germany. (Photo by Christof Koepsel/Bongarts/Getty Images)

  • Borussia Dortmund v Borussia Moenchengladbach - Bundesliga

    DORTMUND, GERMANY - APRIL 21: (L-R) Head coach Juergen Klopp embraces Shinji Kagawa of Dortmund after scoring the second goal during the 1. Bundesliga match between Borussia Dortmund an Borussia Moenchengladbach at Signal Iduna Park on April 21, 2012 in Dortmund, Germany. (Photo by Christof Koepsel/Bongarts/Getty Images)

  • Borussia Dortmund v Borussia Moenchengladbach - Bundesliga

    DORTMUND, GERMANY - APRIL 21: (L-R) Marcel Schmelzer, Mats Hummels, head coach Juergen Klopp and Shinji Kagawa of Dortmund celebrate the second goal during the 1. Bundesliga match between Borussia Dortmund an Borussia Moenchengladbach at Signal Iduna Park on April 21, 2012 in Dortmund, Germany. (Photo by Christof Koepsel/Bongarts/Getty Images)

  • SpVgg Greuther Fuerth v Borussia Dortmund - DFB Cup

    FUERTH, GERMANY - MARCH 20: Shinji Kagawa of Dortmund and Head coach Juergen Klopp hug during the DFB Cup semi final match between SpVgg Greuther Fuerth and Borussia Dortmund at Trolli-Arena on March 20, 2012 in Fuerth, Germany. (Photo by Dennis Grombkowski/Bongarts/Getty Images)

  • SpVgg Greuther Fuerth v Borussia Dortmund - DFB Cup

    FUERTH, GERMANY - MARCH 20: Shinji Kagawa of Dortmund and Head coach Juergen Klopp hug during the DFB Cup semi final match between SpVgg Greuther Fuerth and Borussia Dortmund at Trolli-Arena on March 20, 2012 in Fuerth, Germany. (Photo by Dennis Grombkowski/Bongarts/Getty Images)

  • Borussia Dortmund v SV Werder Bremen - Bundesliga

    DORTMUND, GERMANY - MARCH 17: Shinji Kagawa of Dortmund celebrates with head coach Juergen Klopp after scoring his team's opening goal during the Bundesliga match between Borussia Dortmund and SV Werder Bremen at Signal Iduna Park on March 17, 2012 in Dortmund, Germany. (Photo by Dennis Grombkowski/Bongarts/Getty Images)

  • Borussia Dortmund v FSV Mainz 05 - Bundesliga

    DORTMUND, GERMANY - MARCH 03: Head coach Juergen Klopp of Dortmund and Shinji Kagawa joke during the Bundesliga match between Borussia Dortmund and FSV Mainz 05 at Signal Iduna Park on March 3, 2012 in Dortmund, Germany. (Photo by Dennis Grombkowski/Bongarts/Getty Images)

  • Borussia Dortmund v Hannover 96 - Bundesliga

    DORTMUND, GERMANY - FEBRUARY 26: Head coach Juergen Klopp of Dortmund embraces Shinji Kagawa after the substitution during the Bundesliga match between Borussia Dortmund and Hannover 96 at Signal Iduna Park on February 26, 2012 in Dortmund, Germany. (Photo by Christof Koepsel/Bongarts/Getty Images)

  • Dortmund's Japanese midfielder Shinji Ka

    Dortmund's Japanese midfielder Shinji Kagawa (L) hugs Dortmund's headcoach Juergen Klopp after the German first division Bundesliga football match 1. FC Nuremberg vs Borussia Dortmund in the southern German city of Nuremberg on February 3, 2012. AFP PHOTO / GUENTER SCHIFFMANN RESTRICTIONS / EMBARGO - DFL LIMITS THE USE OF IMAGES ON THE INTERNET TO 15 PICTURES (NO VIDEO-LIKE SEQUENCES) DURING THE MATCH AND PROHIBITS MOBILE (MMS) USE DURING AND FOR FURTHER TWO HOURS AFTER THE MATCH. FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT DFL. AFP (Photo credit should read GUENTER SCHIFFMANN/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Arsenal FC v Borussia Dortmund - UEFA Champions League

    LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 23: Manager Jurgen Klopp of Borussia Dortmund consoles Shinji Kagawa of Dortmund at the final whistle during the UEFA Champions League Group F match between Arsenal FC and Borussia Dortmund at Emirates Stadium on November 23, 2011 in London, England. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Bongarts/Getty Images)

  • Borussia Dortmund v VfL Wolfsburg - Bundesliga

    DORTMUND, GERMANY - NOVEMBER 05: Head coach Juergen Klopp of Dortmund celebrates with Shinji Kagawa after winning the Bundesliga match between Borussia Dortmund and VfL Wolfsburg at Signal Iduna Park on November 5, 2011 in Dortmund, Germany. (Photo by Lars Baron/Bongarts/Getty Images)

  • Borussia Dortmund v Arsenal FC - UEFA Champions League

    DORTMUND, GERMANY - SEPTEMBER 13: Shinji Kagawa (C) of Dortmund and head coach Juergen Klopp (R) shake hands during the UEFA Champions League Group F match between Borussia Dortmund and Arsenal FC at Signal Iduna Park on September 13, 2011 in Dortmund, Germany. (Photo by Dennis Grombkowski/Bongarts/Getty Images)

  • Sandhausen v Borussia Dortmund - DFB Cup

    SANDHAUSEN, GERMANY - JULY 30: Shinji Kagawa of Dortmund shake hands with his head coach Juergen Klopp during the DFB Pokal first round match between SV Sandhausen and BVB Borussia Dortmund at Hardtwald Stadion on July 30, 2011 in Sandhausen, Germany. (Photo by Alexander Hassenstein/Bongarts/Getty Images)

  • Sandhausen v Borussia Dortmund - DFB Cup

    SANDHAUSEN, GERMANY - JULY 30: Shinji Kagawa of Dortmund shake hands with his head coach Juergen Klopp during the DFB Pokal first round match between SV Sandhausen and BVB Borussia Dortmund at Hardtwald Stadion on July 30, 2011 in Sandhausen, Germany. (Photo by Alexander Hassenstein/Bongarts/Getty Images)

  • Borussia Dortmund v FC Karpaty Lviv - UEFA Europa League

    DORTMUND, GERMANY - DECEMBER 02: Head coach Juergen Klopp of Dortmund (R) embraces Shinji Kagawa of Dortmund (L) during the UEFA Europa League group J match between Borussia Dortmund and Karpaty Lviv at Signal Iduna Park on December 2, 2010 in Dortmund, Germany. (Photo by Christof Koepsel/Bongarts/Getty Images)

  • FC Schalke 04 v Borussia Dortmund - Bundesliga

    GELSENKIRCHEN, GERMANY - SEPTEMBER 19: Coach Juergen Klopp and Shinji Kagawa of Dortmund celebrates during the Bundesliga match between FC Schalke 04 and Borussia Dortmund at Veltins Arena on September 19, 2010 in Gelsenkirchen, Germany. (Photo by Friedemann Vogel/Bongarts/Getty Images)

  • Borussia Dortmund v Manchester City - Pre-Season Friendly

    DORTMUND, GERMANY - AUGUST 04: Head coach Juergen Klopp of Dortmund celebrates the 3-1 victory with Shinji Kagawa (2nd R) after the pre-season friendly match between Borussia Dortmund and Manchester City at Signal Iduna Park on August 4, 2010 in Dortmund, Germany. (Photo by Christof Koepsel/Bongarts/Getty Images)

  • Borussia Dortmund - Training Camp

    STEGERSBACH, AUSTRIA - JULY 19: Head coach Juergen Klopp (R) embraces Shinji Kagawa (L) during the Borussia Dortmund Training Camp for the upcoming season 2010/2011 on July 19, 2010 in Stegersbach, Austria. (Photo by Mathias Kniepeiss/Getty Images)


Moyes takes a team to Anfield for the 13th time on Sunday without ever winning at Liverpool's ground. It is a chance to endear himself to his United sceptics and it is a chance for Kagawa to belatedly tune into the same frequency as his teammates.