Windup OR Masterstroke?

3 07 2009

Sir Alex Ferguson has pulled off some spectacular masterstrokes in his time so it’s very dangerous to second guess him but is this the most audacious one of them all?

The signing of Michael Owen may simply be a huge windup, but if  it goes ahead, Fergie runs the risk of either looking like a complete idiot or an absolute genius. I have enough faith in Sir Alex for it to be the latter. How ironic will it be if two Scousers – Rooney and Owen , can help deliver Manchester United its 19th Championship come May 2010!

Michael-Owen-001

Michael Owen On Verge Of Shock Move To Manchester United

The Guardian, Thurday 2 July 2009

Michael Owen is on the verge of an astonishing move to Manchester United to supply some of the goals that have been lost in the wake of Cristiano Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez leaving Old Trafford.

Owen, recently linked with Stoke City and Hull City and written off in many quarters as a has-been, was holding talks with the Premier League champions and will complete one of the most unexpected transfers of the summer if he passes a stringent medical examination.

That is expected to take place today when, if everything goes according to plan, United hope to announce they are willing to take on a striker whose career had seemed to be in an irreversible tailspin. Owen is a free agent after coming to the end of his contract at Newcastle United and his stock has fallen so much over a dismal season that, until now, he has been linked only with clubs in the lower half of the Premier League table.

Owen even faced the ignominy this week of the Blackburn Rovers manager, Sam Allardyce, saying he would not try to sign him because the former Liverpool and Real Madrid player could not be guaranteed to play 30 games a season. Sir Alex Ferguson, however, appears to be untroubled by the forward’s various injury problems and is keen to reunite him with Wayne Rooney, his former strike partner for the England national team until Fabio Capello decided that Owen was no longer worthy of a place in the squad. Everton have been monitoring Owen’s potential availability but were informed that they had effectively been gazumped.

The transfer is likely to prompt a mixed reaction among United supporters given Owen’s past with Liverpool and, more pertinently, the fact that he has become recognised as a player on the wane.

Owen scored 30 times in 65 starts for Newcastle, but he cost them £41m in total when putting together his wages and his transfer fee, and was dropped by the club’s interim manager, Alan Shearer, during the run-in to their relegation. He has not scored since January and, as his reputation has plummeted, his representatives appeared to have had so little confidence in finding a major club that would be willing to sign him they produced a 32-page brochure to persuade prospective buyers that he was worth a punt.

Ferguson is unlikely to have needed a glossy supplement, however, to know all about Owen’s ability, having closely followed his career since the player was at school. Liverpool got in ahead of United after Ferguson could not arrange a deal with the player’s father, Terry, and sources close to the Old Trafford manager have indicated that he has always regarded Owen as one that got away.

Even so, it represents a significant gamble on the part of Ferguson given the way Owen, at 29, has become more synonymous with injuries and high wages than the goals that once made him one of the more feared strikers in European football. There have also been misgivings about Owen’s commitment to his professional life, with the Wigan chairman, Dave Whelan, recently questioning whether the player was spending too much time indulging his love of horse racing.

None of these concerns appears to have registered with Ferguson, though, as he contemplates rebuilding his frontline in the aftermath of Ronaldo’s £80m transfer to Real Madrid and the Manchester City-bound Tevez severing his ties with Old Trafford. Karim Benzema, the France international striker, has moved to Real Madrid and United have ruled out other attackers such as Samuel Eto’o and Franck Ribéry because of a long-term decision not to sign players aged 26 or older for large fees because of the way their potential sell-on transfer values would then drop.

United are so determined to keep to this rule that Dimitar Berbatov, who was 27 when he signed from Tottenham for £30m last September, has been described as the “last of his kind”, but Owen’s situation, as a free agent, means these restrictions do not apply. He is clearly intent on showing that he can still play at the highest level judging by his comments last week. “I’ve got skin thicker than 99.9% of the population and I have got used to it,” he said. “I’ll come back. I’ll play well and score goals once more.” Few could have imagined him doing so in a Manchester United shirt.

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