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Kagawa in control

Shinji Kagawa has struggled to make an impact so far this season, but he excelled in his favoured position in the centre on Wednesday as Man United thrashed Bayer Leverkusen...

By Matt Stanger.   Last Updated: 27/11/13 11:22pm

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Shinji Kagawa: Produced a performance which will be impossible for David Moyes to ignore

Shinji Kagawa: Produced a performance which will be impossible for David Moyes to ignore

"When you get opportunities you want to take them," said David Moyes in his shrewd assessment of Manchester United's 0-0 draw with Real Sociedad at the start of November. Against Bayer Leverkusen in the UEFA Champions League, United took their chances. It was a confident display of ruthless counter-attacking that started with a superb move for Antonio Valencia's opening goal and ended with a delightful fifth from Nani. Leverkusen might be second in the Bundesliga but on Wednesday they were a distant second best.

With Marouane Fellaini and Robin van Persie missing through injury, Shinji Kagawa was handed a rare start in his favoured No.10 role and no-one seized their opportunity more than the playmaker. There were no tears from Jurgen Klopp on this occasion, except perhaps in respect of Borussia Dortmund somehow sitting below Leverkusen in the Bundesliga table.

"I think he's good in them all," said Moyes when asked about Kagawa's best position and Klopp's deployment of the attacking midfielder after the draw in San Sebastian. It was a curt response from the manager but Kagawa's contribution against Leverkusen proved there was a point to the question. On the left he has flickered in and out of games, whereas he was involved in almost all the impressive aspects of United's display on Wednesday as they qualified for the last 16. And there were many.

Wayne Rooney: The England international was also superb as United hammered Leverkusen

The contrast between the playmaker's performances on the left and in the centre certainly hints at more than just a lack of familiarity in his role on the wing but if he is happier driving through the heart of the team then surely Moyes must indulge him?

It may be impossible not to. As United went in search of an early lead, Kagawa robbed Stefan Reinartz of the ball near the half-way line and burst forward, playing a neat pass to Ryan Giggs before continuing his run into the penalty area. His presence in the box was enough to distract makeshift left-back Emre Can, allowing Valencia to ghost in at the back post and set United on their way to a record away win in the Champions League. It was a decisive moment, especially for Kagawa, and he was visibly galvanised as he made the most of his chance in the middle.

Antonio Valencia: Scored the opener after an excellent move of counter-attacking

"I would probably have to say it is the best. To come away from home and score five is special"
David Moyes Quotes of the week

The playmaker's performance and encouraging understanding with Wayne Rooney - who was also excellent - possibly hands Moyes another headache in his team selection. "It is a long season and we are going to have to make sure we have different combinations for different games and tonight Shinji and Wayne played well," said the manager in his post-match interview. It is clear that he prefers to partner Rooney and Van Persie in attack but these are the difficult decisions that must be made at a club of United's stature.

"I would probably have to say it is the best (performance of his tenure)," Moyes continued. "To come away from home and score five is special." Three weeks ago United failed to take their opportunities but on Wednesday, with Kagawa pulling the strings in the centre, they clicked to give their best display of the season. It leaves Moyes with an interesting decision ahead of Sunday's clash against Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane.

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