Owen: hopeful failure to the last

March 27, 2012 Tags: Opinion 26 comments

When Michael Owen joined Manchester United, summer 2009, the theory, with Owen approaching 30 and available on a free transfer, was that was former Liverpool striker would add short-term goals at a reasonable price. Three years on and Owen has proven no more value to United, even with no fee, than he did for Newcastle United, who paid more than £16 million for the errant former England star.

If ever there was a poster-child for the Glazernomic era here was it; a player whose failure at Newcastle United was so conspicuous most Geordies were delighted to see the back of the club’s record signing. Indeed, coming towards the end of a third campaign in Manchester, Owen has succeeded no more at Old Trafford than at St. James’ Park or, indeed, Santiago Bernabeu before that. In truth, it is nearly a decade since the former England star performed at the very height of his game.

At Old Trafford, Owen has scored 17 goals in 52 games for the club – just 18 starts – although it is a record hugely flattering to the striker: 11 goals have flowed in cup competitions, with seven in the Carling Cup, and three of Owen’s four Champions League goals in a dead rubber against Wolfsburg more than two years ago.

Most damning, for a player whom Sir Alex Ferguson still lauds, Owen has scored just once against in the ‘big four’ opponents of Manchester City, Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool – the stunning 96th minute strike in the derby two seasons ago.

On any level bar financial Owen has made little impact at United, appearing and scoring in predominantly second-tier competitions, and low-level opponents.

Yet, both player and manager appear blinded by the striker’s past, with Owen repeatedly proclaiming that he’d rather appear infrequently for a leading club, than each week elsewhere. Fair enough perhaps, except while Owen may be on the books of a “top club,” he has started just once against the aforementioned ‘big five’ opponents.

One suspects that games against Scunthorpe United, Southampton, Burnley, Aldershot, Barnsley, and latterly Oţelul Galaţi, were not what Owen had hoped for when he signed on the dotted line.

Meanwhile, Ferguson has continually praised the striker over the past three years, declaring Owen “still one of the best” as recently as last September. Yet, even after Owen spent another lengthy spell on the sidelines this winter, the 70-year-old United manager went on record once again this week, optimistically predicting a key role for the forward during the run-in.

“If you think about ever needing a player to score an important goal for you is there anyone better than Michael Owen?” mused Ferguson on Friday.

“He will be a really welcome addition to our squad, even if it were to be for the last few games of the season. He’s certainly making good progress. What happened was he came back into our training a couple of weeks ago and then after one of the sessions he did some physical work with the sports science team and overdid it. So it knocked him back a few days, but he should be joining us this week.”

Few United fans, bar those still doe-eyed about an albeit stunning derby-winner, will break out the champagne for horse-owner-cum-footballer Owen’s return to Fergie’s team. Not least while the infinitely more talented Dimitar Berbatov cannot force his way into Ferguson’s squad, let alone first team plans.

Yet, Owen has designs on further time at Old Trafford – a prospect that will bring no cheer to supporters hoping that Berbatov will be replaced in the United squad this summer by a player of equal or greater talent. No matter how inexpensive, surely Owen’s is a squad place better reserve for almost anybody else.

“In life, you have to make hard decisions I have made some good ones and some bad, but in general terms I am pretty proud of my career,” said the 32-year-old on Tuesday.

“I still think I have another two or three years but where that will be is a question that the manager would be better placed to answer. I am exactly the same situation I was last year. Regardless what happens, you will never hear me grumbling about the privilege of playing at a top club like Manchester United.

“I have had some cracking moments. I have scored in cup finals, got the winner against Manchester City, scored a hat-trick in the Champions League and won the league. I am not concerned about what is around the corner.”

One scenario has Ferguson using the veteran as a fourth-choice next season, with the Glazer family restricting Ferguson’s ability to enter the transfer market. Indeed, it is unlikely the Scot has more than £30 million to spend, with United’s long-mooted IPO now on hold until at least the autumn, and possibly moving venue away from the under-performing Singapore Stock Exchange.

Owen believes he is still fit to perform at the highest level, whether at Old Trafford or elsewhere. Just as the player once, quite laughably, denied he has ever been injury-prone, Owen is still seemingly blind to his own decline.

“I must admit, I don’t think I am going to be one of the players who is still playing when they are 37 or 38 like Ryan, but I certainly think I still have another two or three years left in me,” added the Chester-born striker.

“I listen to players in the dressing room; some players are struggling to get out of bed and complain about their knees or Achilles. I honestly can’t resonate with them. I never get any pains like that. I feel as though I can play, it’s just when I get injuries, they always seem to be bad ones. My body feels as though it can play and my mind wants to and the aim is to keep going for at least another couple of years.”

Owen’s continued presence in football will certainly be a loss to the horse-racing fraternity, which if the player’s Twitter account is any barometer, is his true passion.

In any case, fitness concerns and (lack of) goalscoring performances aside, Owen’s place at Old Trafford has rarely been a natural fit. Despite that derby-day strike, a former-Liverpool man, whose passionate response to scoring against United so enthralled the Kop faithful, was never likely to become an Old Trafford hero.

Few will shed a tear should Ferguson finally discard the striker this summer; many will drop if Owen keeps the coveted number seven shirt for a fourth campaign.


Crip - March 28, 2012 Reply

I’m in the minority but I actually feel Michael Owen does offer something to United and I was very keen on seeing him sign on for another year last year, especially so with Scholes, Neville and VDS retiring.

Now, I’m not delusional to the point that I think he’s a critical component of the match day squad. He will play a part (when fit) and I do agree with the SAF assertion that if it’s the 91st minute and we are able to create one chance he IS the player I’d want to see that chance fall too. Mentally he comes off very strongly, with the number of setback he’s had he still believes…you might suggest he’s delusional, I think he’s stronger for it and admire him for that strength.

Where I think Owen comes into his own is that he IS well respected among the squad due to his ability and experiences. I think too many fans do not consider this aspect at all, the dynamic of a dressing room is directly related to what a team does on the pitch and in this respect Owen excels.

SAF values what he brings in that respect. SAF is no fool, he doesn’t keep Owen around for the hell of it, I’m sure he hoped for more when he signed him in term of appearances but it’s not been a bad signing at all. He IS one dimensional on the pitch (I believe Hernandez is much the same too) but off the pitch he is multi dimensional and I wouldn’t be too surprised to see him as part of our coaching set up when he does retire.

Dave - March 28, 2012 Reply

No value in the market, bringing back Scholesy, no big midfield signing, owen scoring an important goal, heck even berba not playing (glazer-nomics there anyone?)

Just as any type of supporter has the right to their opinion, so we have the right to ours:

For us when it comes to SAF, whatever he says goes, end of. Demands fierce loyalty from all his players, who is SAF loayal too?
– the club he loves, during the short time he has left. Maybe most of us just ain’t family http://bit.ly/GPyY0Q

The truth be told, we are definately not part of the family. We’ just feeding, just like everyone else, off scraps he throws at the media.

DeadRevel - March 28, 2012 Reply

How is Berba not playing ‘Glazernomics’? It’s the opposite to Glazernomics if you really want to continue to beat that particular drum. If he doesn’t play, earns wages, and we could sell him for a decent fee, then surely the Glazers would be keen to sell him.
Of course Berba proves that the Glazers do not rule everything at United as many people here seem to think.

Dave - March 29, 2012 Reply

Yes, my point exactly.
Was a failed attempt at sarcasm…

Herbie Simms - March 28, 2012 Reply

Good article. But SAF signed him up to warm the subs bench just as he is doing to Berbatov. Owen and Berbatov are rated as world class players so why do they just occupy the subs bench? Are Wellbeck and Hernandez proven world class players? Yes, I do believe Owen is finished, way past his prime because of so many injuries. Do we have any class youngsters to bring in from the academy team? Any strikers of quality? We don’t have any money so where do we go from here?

Jacob - March 28, 2012 Reply

Owen needs to go the way of Beckham and Keane. He is done in the EPL but may have some gas left in the tank to be successful in the MLS.

JP - March 28, 2012 Reply

Very well written article. As a Newcastle fan, I couldn’t believe that Owen got such a fantastic move after such a poor few years for ourselves and before that, Real Madrid. I think everyone in football still thinks of Owen as that young lad who scored one of the best goals in world cup history and consistently popped up with bags of goals for Liverpool. Every fan in the country sees him now for what he is, diluded. He was just stealing money at newcatle, £120k a week for very few appearances and then scathing attacks on us the fans for having the ‘cheek’ to boo him after leaving us in our time of need. Nowadays though he has a different agenda, his ego. He still honestly believes he’s good enough for a top team like Manchester United when the truth is, he isn’t. If he really wanted to play week in week he’d sign for a lesser premier league side where he at least stood a chance of playing.

Personally I’m incredibly happy Owen didn’t stay with us when we got relegated. Despite the fact our owner is an idiot, no longer do we waste money on big name players with little left to offer other than an ego. For the same price you’re paying Owen you could have had Ba this season, I don’t think City would of stood a chance this year if that had been the case. Best of luck with the run in, hopefully you’ll ship Owen on next season and not nick Tiote or Demba off us!

bb - March 28, 2012 Reply

when did owen last score more than 14 goals in the premier league forget about cup coms

when did owen last start 10 matches in a row in the premier league

anyone know the answer

should tell us when he was past it

Geno - March 28, 2012 Reply

Mickey Owen needs to get off Twitter sharpish. Whenever I see him tweeting about horse racing, darts or anything and everything other than football, I have to remind myself that he’s not actually retired yet!

DeadRevel - March 28, 2012 Reply

I think with Rooney, Welbeck and Hernandez with have enough strikers. If there is an injury crisis or need to rotate, just let one of the wingers play up front or play a 4-5-1 / 4-3-3.

Sell Owen, Macheda and Berba and buy a skillful energetic midfielder.

Denton Davey - March 28, 2012 Reply

What about Michael Keane ? Isn’t he going to be “the next one” in the backup-striker’s role.

Ed - March 28, 2012 Reply

Denton – I think you mean Will Keane (Michael is a defender). He’s likely to go out on loan to the Championship next season.

RedAlert260599 - March 28, 2012 Reply

Is Berba injured? We were crying out for a bit of class up front against Fulham. Nobody could find the space in their box – Berba would have. I think he’s accidentally killed Fergie’s cat. I just can’t understand why he’s not considered when Wellbeck and Hernandez are playing like a pair of planks!

Viral - March 28, 2012 Reply

Ed – Great article. I’d be interested to know how much Owen has cost the club in terms of his wages over the last 3 years. We did get him for free but I’m sure with his wages he’s cost us quite a bit while contributing little apart from that winner against City. The real question is, how much was that goal worth to us?

Spudiator - March 28, 2012 Reply

Wasn’t Owen originally on a pay-as-you-play deal? So surely he wouldn’t have cost that much in wages anyway.

Ed - March 28, 2012 Reply

Spud – he’s not on a pay-as-you-play deal. He’s on a basic plus ample bonuses.

uncleknobheadforfucksake - March 28, 2012 Reply

look clearly hes gonna get a new contract

and hes gonna move up the pecking order when berbashite goes

further accentuating our reliance on wayne

han - March 29, 2012 Reply

Commenter said:
Yes, my point exactly.
Was a failed attempt at sarcasm…

call a cunt a cunt
that is rant ffs
we don’t do sarcasm on here

DeadRevel - March 29, 2012 Reply

Ok you’re a cunt.

han - March 29, 2012 Reply

Commenter said:
Ok you’re a cunt.

that’s not nice

uncleknobheadforfucksake - March 29, 2012 Reply

han ruins every topic

Denton Davey - March 29, 2012 Reply

Ed: “I think you mean Will Keane (Michael is a defender). ”

OK – but like the Da Silvas running down the pitch, can you tell me which one’s which ?

vlad - March 29, 2012 Reply

Well we may expect only one real signing in the summer.
As long as Michael stays with United chances are SAF doesn’t buy another striker.
So it’s better if we have Owen and, after so many season, finally get a new decent midfielder, hic.

Alfonso Bedoya - March 29, 2012 Reply

Scholes will play on, and Cleverly will get another crack.

No new midfielders… no new strikers… maybe a fullback… maybe…

I am saying right here and now that Ferguson will NOT spend more than £20mill total… and no more than £7mill on any one player.

And if I’m wrong… Knobhead will eat Han.

Herbie Simms - March 30, 2012 Reply

Ater listening to SAF talking so much on sports networks, I do believe we do have the money to buy world class players but SAF believes in his mind that the players we already have are quite capable of beating any team in the world. I agree with the previous writer that the only player we will buy this summer is a right fullback for under 10 million. SAF believes players like Anderson, Cleverley and Pogba gives us a very strong midfield. You be the judge. Owen and Berbatov will move on and another youngster from the academy team will get his chance.

DeadRevel - March 30, 2012 Reply

Not sure why you’re critical of Cleverley and Pogba. Utterly pointless.

And I don’t know why everyone is so pessimistic on signings. We spent about 60MIL last summer. We dont need a keeper, a striker, wingers or defenders. I think Fergie will sign a midfielder for sure.

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