The Japan international has been hampered by injury concerns during his debut season in England, and his boss believes the more physical nature of the game has been a shock
Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson has conceded that Shinji Kagawa has struggled to adapt to English football during his debut season, but has backed the midfielder to shine next term.
The Japan international has been hampered by fitness problems during his opening six months at Old Trafford – making just 11 Premier League appearances.
But, Sir Alex believes the 23-year-old just needs time to adjust to the more physical nature of the English game, and has faith that his €19.7 million summer signing from Borussia Dortmund will come good sooner rather than later.
“The difference between German and English football is that in Germany you can’t foul,” Sir Alex told The Telegraph. “You are not allowed to touch anyone in Germany, so [Kagawa] has come from that environment to the Premier League which is totally different.
“There is a physicality to our game which is different from Germany, but next year he’ll be better. I thought in the first half-hour [against Real] he was terrific and he was making some great runs through them.
“We thought that was going to be one of our biggest assets in the game, someone to play in the second balls and he was just unlucky with a couple of heavy touches on the ball. But he kept on opening them up and if people don’t see that, it’s actually unfair, but he did really well for us in the first half.”
Sir Alex is set to recall Nemanja Vidic to his starting line-up, alongside the likes of Tom Cleverley and Ashley Young, after leaving them out of the squad to face Madrid as United face Reading in the FA Cup on Monday evening.
The Scot admitted the trio were disappointed to miss the Champions League last-16 first leg but underlined the importance of squad rotation.
“You have to keep them all contributing and keep them involved,” he continued. “It isn’t easy because there were a lot of disappointed players on Wednesday and I don’t think anyone expected me to pick that team, but we did and it was OK.
“We could have picked a different team with three different players and if Ryan Giggs hadn’t put that effort in [against Everton] last Sunday, I probably would have played him for his experience. But he did great when he came on, terrific. He has been fantastic, unbelievable, and I don’t know how he does it. It’s incredible.”