Will Michael Owen be a success at Man United?
17th December 2001. Michael Owen was enshrined as European Footballer of Year. One of the most prestigious personal awards in football, Owen had rightly earned the title. The now 29-year-old was simply mercurial that year.
The highlights of a glory filled year included what has been christened ‘The Michael Owen Final’ by some fans. A quick-fire brace from the former Liverpool number 10, snatching the FA Cup out of Arsenal’s hands and ensured it was soon to be lofted on a double-decker bus through the streets of Liverpool.
Indeed he helped Liverpool to a decorated treble. Crucial goals in the UEFA Cup campaign, two coming at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome. He was also vital in securing Champions League football for the 2001/02 season.
It’s a stark contrast to the Michael Owen who is now languishing in the depths of unemployment. The richest man on the dole maybe? Despite the harsh words from the critics it seems certain he will soon be playing regular football again, and in the Premiership too.
Owen’s management company produced a dossier on their client. In the document Owen’s achievements and assets were highlighted. Somewhat a bizarre tactic. Nevertheless it got the football world talking. Nudged Owen to the front of the shop window once more.
Hull City declared an interest in the player, amongst a host of other clubs linked with the Chester born striker. Phil Brown a manager who relishes the spotlight, in his usual bravado manner was speaking mid week of his desire for the England international to come to the KC Stadium.
This positive sign was followed by a rebut. Owen wasn’t seen a feasible option by Blackburn Rovers. Sam Allardyce cited Owen’s reoccurring injury problems as a decisive deterrent from signing the player.
For a player of Owen’s ability and aged still only 29, arguably he should be in his prime. A club of the stature of Everton or Aston Villa seemed like a suitable location. Neither club declared a solid interest in the player.
Then, last night, a sensational story emerged within the footballing world. Manchester United were on the verge of signing the former Liverpool star.
Almost unbelievable considering just over a month ago, Owen was facing life in the Championship or possibly football wilderness. Now, according to sources, he is undergoing a medical with the English champions.
Is it a case of miracles are possible for Michael Owen? Or does Sir Alex Ferguson just want some reliable betting tips on the horses! Time will tell if this is another stroke of genius by Ferguson.
Speaking to Manchester United fans this morning there was a mixed consensus. Ferguson was branded by some as ‘senile’, while others pointed out Ferguson’s vice of dabbling in a bit of a gambling now and then while it was seen as a shrewd move by certain quarters.
One lesson English football has learnt throughout the duration of the Premiership era is to never underestimate Sir Alex Ferguson. Rarely does the Scotsman get it wrong. Henrik Larsson was a striker deemed past it by the harshest of critics but the Swede proved a hit, chipping in with his fair share of goals.
Owen has a considerable amount of years on the Celtic legend. The offer being touted in the media is a £30,000-a-week contract with appearances and goal bonuses multiplying his potential earnings to near £100,000. A source of motivation for Owen.
This should remove any of the doubts United fans may have over Owen’s commitment to the Red Devils. Indeed in recent years it could be argued Owen’s love for football has vanquished, replaced by his ongoing development of stables.
For Owen it provides a dream opportunity to re-announce himself to the football world. With the World Cup approaching next summer, Owen faces the task of reopening what appears to be a firmly closed door.
He will undoubtedly benefit from the quality around him: the hustling Wayne Rooney and the silky passing of Michael Carrick. It is a gamble, but one which I feel will pay off. He would fit effortlessly in to the side, behind the hard working Rooney or the composed Dimitar Berbatov.
Owen still has a lot to prove. Today’s papers suggest he earned a staggering £41 million in his time at Tyne-side. Except for his bank account he doesn’t have much else to show from his time at St James’. He will be eager to prove that he still possess the clinical edge to his game.
There is a real sense of wasted talent when one looks back on Owen’s career. Injuries have unquestionably played a major hand in shaping the fortunes of his career. Once the best striker in England, he looked set to surpass Bobby Charlton’s goalscoring record.
The move will be controversial. Former Liverpool hero moving to arch-rivals Manchester United. Almost unheard of. I defy any football fan who would have said in 2001 he could envisage Owen pulling on a United shirt.
However, reflecting on how Owen’s career has unfortunately panned out, and how his body has let him down, I doubt many Liverpudlians would begrudge Owen some success. Should it only be an England recall!
The Blue side of Manchester will certainly be laughing. Mark Hughes afforded the luxury of bringing in Roque Santa Cruz and Carlos Tevez to bolster an already packed front line. Meanwhile their neighbours are resorting to signing a patched-up striker on a free transfer to ease offensive woes.
But if there is one manager who can transform Michael Owen’s dwindling fortunes it is certainly Sir Alex Ferguson.