Kagawa set for Japan matches as United doubts grow

AFP
Manchester United's Shinji Kagawa smiles at fans before a Champions Cup match against Inter Milan at FedEx Field in Landover, Maryland, on July 29, 2014
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Manchester United's Shinji Kagawa smiles at fans before a Champions Cup match against Inter Milan at FedEx Field in Landover, Maryland, on July 29, 2014 (AFP Photo/Nicholas Kamm)

Tokyo (AFP) - Playmaker Shinji Kagawa will be selected in the Japan squad for the first friendly matches under new coach Javier Aguirre, media said Tuesday, as doubts deepened over his future at Manchester United.

The Japan Football Association has informed the English Premier League side of the plan to call up the 25-year-old midfielder for friendlies against Uruguay and Venezuela on September 5 and 9, the Nikkan Sports daily said.

Kagawa spent the first two games of the season at Old Trafford keeping the bench warm as new manager Louis van Gaal left him out of the starting line-up.

The Dutchman tried Kagawa in one of the two central midfield holding positions in his 3-5-2 formation during United's pre-season tour of the United States.

But Kagawa failed to shine and van Gaal has so far preferred Juan Mata in the more attacking central midfield berth that Kagawa played at Borussia Dortmund.

The omission has amplified rumours Kagawa could be set to leave United -- following a poor season under the short-lived leadership of David Moyes -- with a potential return to his old German club said to be on the cards.

"Kagawa, I have tried to play him in that position in the United States (in pre-season) and he could not fulfil my wishes and my philosophy," van Gaal told reporters.

The Nikkan Sports said a couple of games with his countrymen might give Kagawa a sorely needed lift.

"There is a possibility that he will regain his confidence and game intuition by playing the two games as a member of Aguirre's Japan," the sports daily said.

Italian coach Alberto Zaccheroni resigned and was replaced by Aguirre after a poor World Cup in Brazil.

But the paper warned the former Cerezo Osaka star should not expect any special treatment under the famously demanding Mexican.

"Aguirre is not a person who prioritises names," it said.

Kagawa, signed by the now-retired Alex Ferguson on a four-year deal in 2012, has played 56 times for United, scoring six goals, though he failed to find the net in the 2013-14 campaign.

But he has been a largely peripheral figure, failing to hold down a starting place amid competition from players such as Wayne Rooney and Juan Mata.

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