Kagawa & Fellaini Miss Chance To Impress

Players on the edge of the Man United team must take every chance to impress, but Matthew Stanger watched Shinji Kagawa, Marouane Fellaini & Javier Herndandez fail...

Last Updated: 06/11/13 at 09:38 Post Comment

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David Moyes bemoaned Manchester United's failure to take their chances as they ambled through a 0-0 draw against Real Sociedad, but several players once again wasting opportunities to prove themselves will play more on the manager's mind than Robin van Persie's saved second-half penalty.

"When you get opportunities you want to take them," said Moyes after a disappointing performance, and the same thought should have occurred to Javier Hernandez and Shinji Kagawa as the duo started a second successive Champions League match, while Marouane Fellaini was recalled to European action following a dismal night in Donetsk at the start of October.

Hernandez may feel that his winning goal against Stoke and Capital One Cup double against Norwich have deemed him worthy of a starting spot for United - ahead of either Wayne Rooney or Robin van Persie, one presumes - but he is very much a striker who needs to take every chance to impress, something he didn't do on Tuesday as he blazed over when it was easier to score.

After Hernandez shared a story on Twitter in which Mexico teammate Carlos Vela suggested he might eventually have to leave the champions, this was his moment to prove his worth, and yet, despite some earnest hold-up play, he remained an isolated figure in attack. One shot in two matches against Real Sociedad says a great a deal about Chicharito's struggle to shake the idea that he is a sporting anachronism - the poacher of yesteryear fighting the modern ubiquity of single-striker systems.

Of course, the service to the forward should be questioned as Rooney was forced to drop deeper and deeper in the first half to try and initiate attacks. This line of enquiry again leads to Kagawa, whose selection on the left encouraged fanciful claims of the Japanese's martyrdom.

Following Jurgen Klopp's playful quotes about Kagawa belonging in the middle, the playmaker's position has become a cause celebre at Old Trafford and one wonders how much this has affected his concentration. Similar to Hernandez, Kagawa has hinted at his unrest as he seeks to become a regular starter, but his sudden animation when moved into the centre on Tuesday said as much about his failure to deliver in the first half as it did his claim to a central role.

Kagawa's improved contribution behind Van Persie - which included a delicate flick to Ashley Young that led to United's penalty - also owed much to the game opening up after the break. That suited United more, said Real Sociedad manager Jagoba Arrasate, who confessed that his players were "really knackered" by the final whistle, having pushed for a winning goal in the closing stages.

When asked whether Kagawa's best position is on the left or in the middle, Moyes' curt response was "I think he's good in them all", and the manager would have expected his player to vindicate that opinion after granting him licence to roam in-field as Patrice Evra hogged the left flank. It is reaching a point with Kagawa where it is right to challenge how deserving he is of a starting place as Moyes' selection of the playmaker begins to appear benevolent rather than beneficial, while he continues to flicker in and out of matches.

If benevolence towards Kagawa is an issue, then the same must be true of Fellaini, who profited from Moyes' appointment to become United's fourth most expensive signing in history, despite scant evidence to suggest he can rival the other illustrious names at the top of that list. With Michael Carrick missing through injury, Tuesday provided Fellaini with a chance to reinforce Moyes' judgement. The evening ended with both player and manager made to look foolish by an eminently foreseeable red card.

Indeed, the main criticism of Moyes at a wet and windy Anoeta Stadium was the patience he showed to Fellaini as the midfielder stumbled through more fouls than any other player on the pitch despite picking up a caution after only half an hour. 'There's a savage, wondrous beauty in how perfectly appallingly the signing of Fellaini has gone so far,' tweeted United author Daniel Harris after the Belgian's dismissal, but Moyes was certainly entitled to expect a less hare-brained performance following Fellaini's insistence last week that "it is difficult at the moment, but I will succeed."

After Moyes confirmed that Carrick and United's other injury concerns in the win at Fulham should be fit to return against Arsenal on Sunday, Fellaini may be forced to wait for his next opportunity to prove himself. That United have scored just two goals in their last three Champions League fixtures, one of which belongs to Inigo Martinez, also suggests that Hernandez will find himself on the bench for what is now a crucial trip to Leverkusen in three weeks, while Kagawa is set to persevere on the left as Rooney and Van Persie remain the best combination in the middle.

Moyes was unmoved in his reaction to a frustrating evening that allowed Group A to open up even further, saying: "It's a good position, it's where we want to be, but we should have had three points tonight and made it a lot easier." But the manager will rightly demand more from two players who have expressed their discontent and a third he made his only signing in the summer. It is difficult to complain if you don't take the opportunities you are given, and there was a lingering feeling of a regret as United slunk away from a sodden San Sebastian into their next challenge against Arsenal.

Matthew Stanger - follow him on Twitter

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