After a torrid debut season, it would be unwise to say that Shinji Kagawa's situation at Old Trafford has improved even one bit.
Wayne Rooney has nailed the No 10 spot and David Moyes hasn't really shown much faith in the Japan international, who is often considered as one of the best exponents of his art.
Kagawa himself has admitted that his United career is at stake and this article looks at why the diminutive playmaker might never fit into Moyes' plans.
Set-Up at Dortmund
At Dortmund, Kagawa was the focal point of the attack.
In his final season in Germany, 31% of Die Borussen'sattacks come down the middle of the park (joint-highest in the league), where Kagawa operated. However, at United, Moyes has emphasized on playing down the right-wing, which gives origin to 43% of the Red Devils' attacks. The left-flank, where Kagawa has started all his games for the English champions this term, is primarily used to switch play.
Moreover, Dortmund's free flowing and counter-attacking style was the reason why Kagawa flourished. His teammates were more technical and willing to play one-two's and short passes. He got the ball on the run, with optimum positional freedom. At United, Kagawa gets the ball on to his feet- something he is not accustomed to, and he enjoys limited positional bias.
Kagawa was provided with the required ammunition and defensive cover from the midfield pivot behind him under Jurgen Klopp, enabling the 24-year-old to solely focus on providing the final ball and fulfilling attacking third duties.
In addition, in the Bundesliga, Kagawa's technical superiority made up for his lack of physical presence.
Kagawa is an excellent player, playing in a wrong set-up and in a wrong position.
Left-wing is not Kagawa's natural and favored role, as much as Moyes might reason.
Dortmund's attacks were centered on Kagawa but now the Japanese plays on the "under-utilized" flank of United. Unlike Dortmund, United aren't a counter-attacking team either.
They average 57% possession in league matches this term (last season it was 56.2%) and since the arrival of Kagawa, United have scored just two times on the break. By comparison, in Kagawa's final campaign, Dortmund netted 11 times via counter-attacks.
Thus, United clearly play with a much slower tempo than Kagawa is used to.
They control possession in the opposition half and try to break down defenses from the wings, relying on the crossing abilities of their old-school wingers.
Moyes' men average league-highest 28 crosses per game and with Kagawa playing on the left-side, his slick passing is futile. What he needs to do is provide pin-point crosses into the box but the former Cerezo Osaka youngster is frankly, an atrocious crosser.
United's passing style is also less refined. Kagawa can rarely link up with one-touches with any of his colleagues. He is crying out for more technically adept and aware teammates.
Not to forget, Kagawa isn't provided with adequate service from the midfielders and defenders. He is regularly forced to drop deep and collect the ball- something that doesn't bode well with the Asian as he can open up defenses but not start attacks.
The reason Rooney is preferred by Moyes is not because he's a better No 10 than Kagawa but because the England international is more comfortable at dropping deep to originate attacks, distributing play out wide and executing the crosses produced by the wingers.
So even if Kagawa is played behind the striker, he might not necessarily flourish as he'll have to do what Rooney does right now. Only the player will change but the role of the No 10 will remain the same at United - contribute to build-up play, feed the wingers and provide a sound goal-scoring presence in the 18-yard box.
Kagawa looked promising in the second-half of the Carling Cup tie against Liverpool and if one would have noticed, it was owing to United playing on the break. The tempo was high and there was and increased level of intensity and incisiveness. Unfortunately, Kagawa was brought off when he had finally established a sense of attacking authority on the pitch.
If Moyes wants to fit Kagawa into his plans, the Scot will need to change the club's set-up. At 1.72 meters, Kagawa isn't physically imposing enough to match the likes of Yaya Toure, but a sound tactical foundation can easily shadow a player's physical deficiencies.
Go through this video to see how Kagawa's ideal teammates should be - pacey, quick thinkers, fluid passers and mobile.
Also, note how much freedom Kagawa should be optimally given and the short-passing style United should adopt in order to build the team around the former Dortmund star.
A massive overhaul could be needed to accommodate Kagawa at United. It could be well worth it but I don't really see that happening.
All statistics are via WhoScored.com