Shinji Kagawa’s time will come at Old Trafford, former Manchester United striker Andrew Cole says. Maybe not now or this season, but eventually, it will.
“He’s done really well,” Cole said in an interview with Kyodo News. “People, when anyone moves to Manchester United for a certain amount of money, I think they’re expecting him to pull out trees straight away and be winning the Ballon d’Or.”
“To do two seasons in Germany, to achieve what he has achieved in two years and then move again to the Premiership — that’s all in three years. I think it’s going to take time for him to adjust to the English game, to the English culture, but we all know his qualities.”
“I think his hat-trick against Norwich a few weeks ago, that proves his qualities. And he might be playing a slightly different position than he did when he was at Dortmund. So it’s going to take him time, but I have no doubts about his quality.”
“He’s technically very, very gifted so I think it’s just going to be a matter of time. Next season, I imagine he’s going to be a lot better.”
The former England international spoke on Tuesday, when he was in Sukagawa, Fukushima Prefecture, to help run United’s soccer school for children from areas hit by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami two years ago.
The school is also being held in Sendai and Morioka, and will close Saturday. Behind the club’s new Japanese sponsor Kagome, United will organize the clinics in the disasters areas annually until 2015.
Earlier this month, the 41-year-old Cole visited a site ruined by the catastrophes, witnessing the scars of nature’s wrath firsthand. He said the experience was nothing short of unreal.
“Me personally, to witness it two weeks ago was so hard to sum up. To have seen it on the TV and then two years later, to actually be involved in doing something positive, I think that’s special for me personally.”
“It’s unique. To give these kids an opportunity to smile and enjoy a bit of football; to give their parents an opportunity to see their kids smile, it’s unique.”
Unique is also a word Cole would used to describe his experience at United. Like Kagawa, Cole landed in Manchester from another team in 1995, in his case Newcastle.
Cole left the Magpies on a then British record fee of 7 million pounds, and admits the transfer was not an easy one to make with the expectations attached to his price tag.
“It was very, very tough. And I played all my career in England,” he said. “When I moved from Newcastle to Manchester United, the transition was massive. It’s not just a normal football club; it knocks your socks off.”
Cole said it was none other than manager Sir Alex Ferguson who helped him settle at the club, where he bagged 93 league goals in 195 appearances before departing in 2001 for Blackburn Rovers.
“As a manager when I first met him, I thought, ‘Wow, this man is really honest.’ He knows what he wants from you as an individual, he knows what he’s looking for in his team. So straightaway he makes you feel welcome when you join his football club,” said Cole, who finished his career in 2008 with his hometown club Nottingham Forest.
“He doesn’t ask you to do anything foreign that you’re not used to. All he wants you to do is what you did at your previous football club. I think that’s why he’s such a good manager, that’s why he going to go down as the best manager.”
And Cole believes Ferguson is going out of his way to make Kagawa feel comfortable, which is another reason why he thinks the Japan midfielder is bound for success on top of the talent that allowed him to score the first hat-trick by an Asian player in the Premiership.
“He wants you as so much to join his football club. The way he sells Manchester United is phenomenal. I don’t think there are going to be too many players who turn down Manchester United after the manager has spoken to him,” Cole said of the Scottish legend.
“It’s a big culture shock to leave one country and go to another one. To leave Germany after two years and go to England, that’s another culture shock. The German game and the English game is virtually the same but as individuals, to move countries is totally different.”
“So no doubt, the manager is making him feel ultra confident in coming to England and succeeding.”