There’s an inevitable and exhaustive pressure that comes with the territory of being United’s marquee summer signing. In the Summer of 08, United splashed £30.5 million on Dimitar Berbatov. With the hefty price tag comes a certain expectation of return, and he has never really justified his price tag in the minds of the fans. When Cristiano Ronaldo left for Real Madrid in 2009, it was Antonio Valencia from Wigan who was put under extreme pressure to somehow replace the miracle man. Last season, the seemingly irreplaceable Edwin van der Sar called time on a glittering career, and it was up to the slight Spaniard, David de Gea to step up to the plate.
Until last week, Shinji Kagawa looked set to be United’s major summer acquisition, until the sensational capture of Robin van Persie from Arsenal. It’s no secret that Kagawa is an exceptional talent, having lead his Dortmund team to two Bundesliga titles in consecutive years which included the domestic double last season. He looked promising on both legs of the pre-season tour and was chucked in the deep end last night at Goodison by Sir Alex Ferguson. He started centrally behind Wayne Rooney in a 4-2-3-1 formation but occasionally dropped out left to allow Danny Welbeck to play through the middle. Despite the dogged Everton defense, Kagawa looked busy and hungry to get involved. He showed glimpses of potential, settling into his work before looking to play one touch with Rooney in particular, on the edge of the Everton area.
There was an expectation amongst some quarters that Kagawa was going to be the difference between losing the title on goal difference last season and winning it back in 2013. That’s a lot of pressure and expectation for a young foreigner to deal with. With the signing of van Persie, there has been a huge upsurge in optimism coming from the United players. David de Gea, Wayne Rooney, Michael Carric, Ryan Giggs, Tom Cleverley and Danny Welbeck have all expressed their pleasure at the news of the signing. Although he only played 25 minutes against Everton, and never really got into the game, van Persie is a player who unlike Kagawa, is well used to the rigors of the English game. In the lead up to the Everton game from Thursday onwards, Kagawa hardly warranted a mention. van Persie’s signing could be a blessing if not for his goals, but for the fact that it will allow Kagawa to settle into United life in the background without the glare of United supporters around the world.
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