Former United midfielder Nicky Butt had a key role to play in the transfer of Michael Owen to Manchester United this summer, according to the former Liverpool star. Interviewed in The Times, Owen says that United manager Sir Alex Ferguson contacted Newcastle United’s Butt for an assessment on the former England striker’s form and fitness.
“I was at a dead end but I thought, A road will open up. I just know it will. It has to. Surely it has to,” said Owen of the end of his days at Newcastle United.
“Surely there is someone who needs a striker that can score goals, who has done it in the Premiership.”
Ferguson called the 2001 Ballon d’Or winner to invite him round for a chat, having already made up his mind that Owen would be offered a contract at United.
“The manager’s voice is pretty distinctive, so I knew it wasn’t a wind-up,” said Owen.
“Ferguson told me, ‘We are looking for a striker. I’m going to be up front, we went for Benzema and once that was a no-go we looked around for players who are going to score goals.’”
“‘Obviously the big question is if you are fit, but if you are and we can get plenty of games’, then words to the effect that it’s a no-brainer.
“‘Anyway, there’s no point in talking on the phone, we’ll chat about it tomorrow if you are free and fancy coming round.’”
But Owen, who has played at Real Madrid, Liverpool and Newcastle United, turned up at Ferguson’s house with few expectations of signing for United. Out of contract at relegated Newcastle, only Stoke City, Hull City and Everton showed any interest in the striker.
“I had a few butterflies before I went there,” said Owen.
“I listened more than I talked, which I thought was pretty wise. He said, ‘I know what has happened over the past few years, I know you haven’t lost anything, you are only 29, for crying out loud.’”
“I wasn’t sure if we were just going to chat, but then I realised, ‘Oh my God, he definitely wants to sign me!’ ”