Man Utd Club Focus - Ferguson watches Kagawa as ousted champions look for creativity
As Manchester United's planning for next season's title assault comes sharply into focus, the main issue on the agenda will surely be an injection of quality into midfield.
The names of Shinji Kagawa and Eden Hazard have been strongly linked to the deposed champions. Both combine speed with creativity and are able to function anywhere across the midfield. This is something of a pre-requisite for United because of their tendency to interchange forward players.
Hazard is rumoured to be favouring a move to Manchester City, whereas Sir Alex Ferguson went to watch Kagawa in person last weekend. The Japanese has only a year remaining on his Borussia Dortmund contract and would be available at a decent price. At 23, he also fits into United's profile of buying young players with potential to improve.
Kagawa possesses the ability to play the killer ball, as he displayed in the German Cup Final last weekend against Bayern Munich. He also opened the scoring in that game which sealed the double of league and cup for his side. He prefers to play through the middle and work the channels, and has the gift of speed which is a necessity for any new signings.
Put simply, United are in desperate need of a player that can fill the gap left when Cristiano Ronaldo was sold to Real Madrid three years ago. Instead of a guaranteed name on the team sheet, there are a number of players vying to provide the impetus the former FIFA World Player of the Year gave to United's attacking play. The last few years have seen a less explosive attack compared to what was seen with Ronaldo in the side.
The Portuguese was a constant threat when on the pitch and had a hunger for goals until the last minute of every game. United have struggled, at times, to finish teams off over the last few years, which was something Ronaldo thrived on in his pursuit of personal stats and glory. Losing the title on goal difference has highlighted this particular problem.
Ryan Giggs was named yesterday the best player of the Premier League's 20 years. United are currently crying out for a player that would provide the zest Giggs exuded in his younger days – a player to strike fear into the hearts of opposition defenders.
On Monday night Antonio Valencia won United's player of the season award. The Ecuadorian winger does posses the speed and ability to worry the opposition, but needs to take his game to the next level to elevate himself to the standing of one of the world's best.
It remains to be seen whether Valencia can make this final step-up, or whether one of United's other attacking midfielders will find the necessary consistency to make themselves a guaranteed starter.
What is fairly clear though is that United need an injection of imagination to their midfield, as has been the case for a number of years now.
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