Shinji Kagawa sets high standards for himself.
Indeed, despite catching the eye with a number of sparkling displays shortly after his summer arrival from German champions Borussia Dortmund, the Japanese midfielder claims he’s not been happy with his performances in a Reds shirt so far.
Now fit again after a knee injury forced him to miss United’s last 15 games of 2012, Kagawa is determined to prove why Sir Alex was so intent on bringing him to Old Trafford and help the Reds win back the Barclays Premier League.
How are you enjoying life as a Manchester United player?
I’m in a fantastic environment, training everyday with top players. At the same time, being with a big club like Manchester United, I know we are always expected to win trophies, which I haven’t accomplished yet. All I can do is work hard every day. I love playing at Old Trafford, though, and I’m always amazed by the atmosphere of the stadium. We’ve managed many come-from-behind wins this season, which is very difficult. But if we go 1-0 down and then equalise, the feeling of unity between the supporters and players is incredible. Those moments encourage the players and make us feel like we can score another goal at any time.
Which of your United team-mates are you closest to?
I talk a lot with Alexaner Büttner, who’s also in his first season with the team. We have that in common. Also, I spend a bit of time with David De Gea because I take English classes with him. I’m working hard to study English so I can communicate better with my team-mates.
Have you learnt much about Manchester United’s history?
Yes, I know about all those historical events in the past, like the Munich air crash. For me, personally, the fact that an Asian player, Ji-Sung Park, played for the club had a big impact on me. I used to watch United matches on TV when I was little.
How have you found life in Manchester?
The weather is not as good as I imagined [laughs]! It rains a lot and it’s often cloudy. But I’m used to it now. My house is relaxing and I’ve found some nice restaurants. Most of all, I’m able to focus only on football in Manchester, which is very good for a football player. Once in a while I’ll visit London for a short break.
How does United compare with Borussia Dortmund?
Dortmund is a team with young players who don’t have much experience. But we were united and worked very hard as a team. Here at Manchester United we have a lot of experienced players who know how to play in big games. The club have won many titles and I feel every single player has a lot of potential. We’re particularly blessed with a lot of attacking players, who can create various openings in the game, and world-class strikers like Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney.
How would you assess you Manchester United career so far?
I’m not satisfied so far, but then I am always very critical of my own performances. Even worse, though, I got injured. I had to go through the frustrations that come with getting injured in my first season with the team. Now I’m just doing my best to catch up on what I have missed. There’s a lot of pressure when you play for this club, but all I can do at the moment is keep working hard every day to bring out the best in me. I’m confident my hard work will pay off.
Did the time you spent on the sidelines through injury help you study United’s style of play and help your own integration into the team?
I watched those matches from the sidelines imagining myself playing on the pitch. Since I am new to the club I have to learn the styles of my team-mates. As an attacking player, I always think how I should play to make the most out of my team-mates’ abilities and their established styles. That’s the same whether I’m on or off the pitch.
You’ve played on the left side of midfield, in the centre of midfield and behind a main striker. Which do you believe is your best position?
I have the most experience, from my time at Dortmund, in playing behind the striker. However, I just want to be part of the team. I will play wherever the managers wnats me to play.
What have you made of United’s team spirit?
It’s difficult to develop that ability to come from behind and win. But with so many experienced players in the team, we have a mentality here at United to play calmly even when we’re losing. Although we’ve had many comebacks this season and we might make it look easy, it’s actually very difficult. I can tell you this from my experiences with Dortmund.
How impressed have you been with Robin van Persie?
He’s a player who can do a crucial job to win in almost every game. He is a top player, obviously. It’s a wonderful experience for me to be able to play with him. For the team, it’s always encouraging to have players like van Persie and Rooney when you’re attacking.
What would you consider a successful season?
A big club is expected to win every game and also to be the champions. So that’s definitely our goal. I’ll do my best to contribute to the team so that, come the end of the season, I can feel I’ve made a contribution to what will hopefully be a title win.