OSAKA – Cerezo Osaka’s Diego Forlan believes Shinji Kagawa is not at fault for his disappointing season at Manchester United, with the 2010 World Cup MVP and top scorer attributing the Japan international’s struggles to circumstances beyond his control at Old Trafford.
Forlan, a former United player who weathered his own share of storms in two-and-a-half seasons at the club, said Kagawa has the talent to cut it with the three-time European champions but simply hasn’t been used as effectively as he was by Alex Ferguson in 2012-2013.
Ferguson’s handpicked successor David Moyes has given Kagawa just 12 league games with seven left to play in the campaign, and he hasn’t scored once in any competition.
Despite being instrumental in last weekend’s win over West Ham United, Kagawa was again relegated to a halftime substitute in the Red Devils’ latest embarrassment, a 3-0 home defeat to crosstown rival Manchester City on Tuesday.
“Shinji Kagawa is a quality player. There’s no mistake about that,” Forlan said Thursday in a roundtable interview at the clubhouse of his J. League side.
“And he’s shown that in the few games he has played in. But he’s a natural central midfielder who’s being played out wide, and is in a situation where he is not given a chance to play up to his potential.”
Playing up to potential is something Forlan hopes to do more and more for Cerezo, having signed with the club in January from Brazil’s Internacional.
Forlan, who turns 35 in May and names former United standout Paul Scholes as the best player he’s ever seen, scored his first J. League goal last weekend in a 2-0 win at Kashima Antlers and will be looking to find the net again on Saturday, when Cerezo host Albirex Niigata.
Forlan, reportedly earning as much as ¥600 million for his one-year contract, has been the early talk of the J. League as its biggest import in years and expectations of him, from inside and outside the club, are massive.
The Uruguay striker is not only being counted on to lead Cerezo to their first championship, but to mentor the team’s talented young core, most notably rising star Yoichiro Kakitani, whom the club hopes to groom as the Japanese Luis Suarez, Liverpool’s star striker and Forlan’s international teammate.
Forlan is up for the task, and has been pleasantly surprised by the J. League, which he feels will give him a good buildup for this summer’s World Cup where Uruguay has been drawn with Italy, England and Costa Rica for the first round.
Uruguay reached the semifinals four years ago in South Africa under tactical guru Oscar Tabarez, but Forlan is not setting a specific target for himself or for the team in Brazil.
Asked if he was aiming to again slip on the golden boot, a feat that would certainly put Forlan in the conversation as one of the World Cup’s all-time best goalscorers, the Uruguayan centurion laughed at the suggestion.
“I’m not thinking about it at all,” he said. “It’s not like I was trying to be MVP or top scorer at the last tournament. Those things happened to be the results of my playing hard and sacrificing for the team.”
“What I can say about us at the last World Cup is that we were good as a team and I was able to translate our form into goals. It wasn’t just me.”