Tag Owen Hargreaves

Tag Owen Hargreaves

Hargreaves finally checks out

Ed May 22, 2011 Tags: Opinion 43 comments

So the end is no longer near but final for Owen Hargreaves, released by Manchester United this summer. Four years and so few games later, Hargreaves departs Old Trafford having never fulfilled the potential that persuaded Sir Alex Ferguson to part with £17 million in summer 2007. The 30-year-old midfielder made just 39 appearances for the club in fours years and has not earned a new contract despite recent speculation that he would remain at Old Trafford on a pay-as-you-play basis. It means that the former Bayern Munich man is free to find a new club from June. If any will take him.

Hargreaves was a key man in United’s run to Champions League glory in 2008 but the tendinitis which ruined a career had already set in by then. In truth United should never have acquired a player among the world’s finest destructive midfielders but whose injury record in Germany was far too suspect.

Along the way there have been all too many false dawns. He played just over 30 seconds of United’s end-of-season fixture with Sunderland in May 2010; the only football he played last season. The latest comeback lasted a little longer – six minutes. Such is the Canadian-born midfielder’s luck with injuries in recent years that even that action, against Wolverhampton Wanderers at Old Trafford last September, was cut short in cruel circumstances. It was Hargreaves first start for United in more than two years.

Hargreaves began on the right side of midfield against Wolves; the role he played so effectively against Chelsea in the 2008 Champions League final. The comeback was fleeting though. As Hargreaves played an ambitious ball forward he clutched his left buttock, with his hamstring tweaked and his afternoon’s work over.

The injury against Wolves appeared to sum up Hargreaves time in Manchester. The midfielder traipsed towards the South West corner of the ground and the sanctuary of the home dressing room without the merest glance over his shoulder. Perhaps fearing the indignant reaction from the bench, perhaps it was simply the embarrassment of yet another false dawn. After all Hargreaves’ cost to United, with just 26 starts and 13 substitute appearances, approaches £800,000 per game, or £31 million over the past four years, including transfer fee and wages.

Yet, for all the financial waste United has greatly missed the player, who has never genuinely been replaced by Ferguson. There’s also no denying the time and effort Hargreaves has put into making a comeback from two operations at Dr. Richard Steadman’s Denver clinic to cure persistent patellar tendinitis.

The cruelty is only magnified with the knowledge that many of the player’s problems were not of his own making. When Hargreaves broke his leg playing for Bayern Munich against Arminia Bielefeld in September 2006 the player returned just four months later, appearing during the last two months of the Germans’ campaign. The rapid return ultimately proved disastrous though.

When Hargreaves moved to United in summer 2007 there was little sign of the problems to come but the player would come to blame his speedy return to action and poor injury management by Bayern for the stress placed on both knees. Initially United treated the problem with rest and injections – Hargreaves appeared in 34 games in all competitions during the 2007/8 campaign, scoring a vital penalty against Chelsea during the Champions League final shoot-out that season.

But the curly-haired midfielder appeared in just three games the following season before the pain in his knees forced the player into the hands of the surgeon. The stars’ knees, described as “the worst ever seen” by Steadman in 25 years operating on injured sportsmen, were to show significant degeneration. It led to surgery on his right knee in November 2008 and the left the following January.

Now the midfielder faces a fight to save a career in any form, which has once promises so much. There has been speculation about a return to Canada with MLS outfit Toronto FC, while clubs in England and Germany may take a risk on the player. Indeed, while it Ferguson who has made the final decision on Hargreaves’ future, the Scot believes the player can return.

“This has been a difficult decision knowing how hard the lad has worked to win back his fitness,” said the United manager on Saturday. “But we have made it in the hope he will be able to resurrect his career elsewhere.”

Ultimately it is a cold-hearted decision by the club but one that comes as little surprise. There is, of course, nothing but sympathy for the player who has effectively played no part in the team for three years. Yet United, as the phrase goes, is a cynical club. Today fans bid farewell to Hargreaves; tomorrow attention will turn to his replacement.

A “Harg” one to take

Nathan Thomas March 6, 2011 Tags: , Opinion 53 comments

After Manchester United compounded a bad week with a 3-1 defeat to arch-rivals Liverpool on Sunday afternoon those associated with the Old Trafford club are again forced to dissect another poor away performance and fathom where it is going wrong. Defeats to Wolverhampton Wanders, Chelsea and now Liverpool in the past month threaten United’s position. Supporters will each have their opinion of course but one argument with credence is that United is missing a player in arguably the most important position: defensive midfield.

It’s been said frequently in the past two years – United is crying out for Owen Hargreaves in games such as that at Anfield. To put it another away, a Hargreaves-type player; an enforcer, a ball winner, someone who can take the game by the ‘scruff of the neck’ and drive United forward.

Hargreaves was the player brought in to play in the ‘Keane role’ at great expense, although injuries have limited his influence. In the 2007/08 season the Canadian-born midfielder was a regular starter in games against the ‘big four’ and more significantly featured in every one of United’s Champions League knock out games including the final.

Sir Alex Ferguson obviously thinks very highly of Hargreaves and the mere fact that the United manager has stuck with the midfielder through injury for the past three years says much. In the 2008/9 season Hargreaves’ absence was not as significant as it could have been – Carlos Tevez and Cristiano Ronaldo were still with United and the team continued to succeed, although United missed the enforcer in the 2009 Champions League Final in Rome.

United has missed him ever since.

Hargreaves is unlikely to return and there is now no point placing faith in a player who has been out for such a lengthy spell, and United now needs to find an alternative solution. Indeed, players of his ilk – Bryan Robson, Roy Keane – aren’t often available and there are few in the European Leagues.

Supporters are highly critical of the United squad but it is important to remember that the Reds remain top of the League because the side deserves it. United’s has not been the flowing football of the past but top is where the team aims for every season.

Moreover, United’s defence has continued to excell, with a better pair than Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic hard to find anywhere. The club also has some terrific wide and forward players. However, it is always the centre of midfield that receives the most criticism from supporters and pundits alike. The criticism is often justified, although the midfielders United possess do bring something different to the party. However, without steel in the engine room United’s creative players will always struggle to play their usual game.

United could spend heavily in the transfer market but within the club’s youth and reserve teams there is a player of this mould – Ryan Tunnicliffe. The youngster has impressed this year. He is not part of the reserves’ engine room, he is the engine room. So well has Tunnicliffe progressed that the 18-year-old midfielder has been called into the first team squad this season. 

This is not to suggest Tunnicliffe is ready to run United’s midfield just yet but it is positive to realise somebody is coming through that may just fit the bill in the years to come.

Fans of Hargreaves hope for a sensational and unexpected come back but it is less likely by the day. In fact Ferguson will almost certainly fill the gap in the summer, with Hargreaves out of contract and not likely to earn a new one. The question is, where the Scot will find a suitable replacement.

In the meantime the team now has a week to recover from a damaging brace of results. United has some huge games ahead, with the return of  players such as Ferdinand, Park Ji-Sung and Antonio Valencia key. United is still marginal favourite for the Premier League title.

As for the long-term solution to the club’s ‘enforcer predicament’ – it is a key question for Ferguson to answer this summer.

Same old Hargo, always injured

Ed November 7, 2010 Tags: Opinion 54 comments

If Owen Hargreaves was born a horse he would have long been sent out to stud. But with a lengthy contract and expensive transfer fee to justify, Manchester United has persisted in what looks like an increasingly furlorn attempt to rehabilitate the 29-year-old former Bayern Munich midfielder. The latest comeback lasted just six minutes.

Such is the Canadian-born midfielder’s luck with injuries in recent years that even yesterday’s comeback against Wolverhampton Wanderers at Old Trafford was cut short in cruel circumstances. It was Hargreaves first start for United in more than two years.

Hargreaves began on the right side of midfield against Wolves; the position he played so effectively against Chelsea in the 2008 Champions League final, which was perhaps the last meaningful act in a career that has stagnated since a £17 million move from Bayern Munich.

The comeback was fleeting though. As Hargreaves played an ambitious ball forward he immediately clutched his left buttock; hamstring tweaked and his afternoon’s work over. The midfielder didn’t attempt a return to the pitch, heading instead towards the South West corner of the ground and the sanctuary of the home dressing room.

Perhaps Hargreaves feared the indignant reaction from the bench, perhaps it was simply the embarrassment of yet another false dawn. After all Hargreaves cost £17 million when signed from Bayern in 2007 and with just 26 starts and 13 substitute appearances to his name that’s almost £436,000 per game for the club.

That is to saying nothing of the £70,000 per week wages the 29-year-old has picked up for six minutes and 30 seconds of football in the past two years.

“It was disappointing for Owen, it is just the way things are going for him at the moment,” assistant manager Mike Phelan told Sky Sports yesterday.

“He has made himself available, he has worked extremely hard in the two years that he has been out and he has had his little blips along the way.

“It didn’t work out for him today. It was a risk and that’s the way it goes in football.”

It’s a risk Sir Alex Ferguson was prepared to take with the midfielder, who has undergone two operations at Dr. Richard Steadman’s Denver clinic to cure persistent tendonitis. Then came repeated setbacks, including severe pain after the midfielder’s 30 second cameo at Sunderland last season.

Indeed, Hargreaves has spent months back at Steadman’s clinic this season learning how to run and turn in new ways so to minimise future risk of relapse. But with the midfielder only just recovered from a calf problem the new set-back only adds to the sense of doom surrounding the player’s future.

“We will assess every situation in the next 48 hours and just see where he is at,” added Phelan last night.

“But hopefully it is not what everybody might fear and we will move on with the boy.”

That future is now further clouded in doubt, even if the latest injury is only minor. After all, Hargreaves has not completed a Premier League match since August 2008. Recovery from injury is one step; a return to the Hargreaves of old is quite another.

United miss him of course. Hargreaves’ all-action, high energy style and ability to break up play has only been replicated to some extent by Darren Fletcher’s rise to prominence. Arguably, a fully fit Hargreaves would still walk into the United side. It makes the player’s repeated failure to find fitness all the more frustrating.

With the midfielder out-of-contract in the summer, it seems unlikely Hargreaves will ever make a serious comeback for United, at least not one that involves appearing in two games a week. It is almost inconceivable that the club will offer Hargreaves a new contract in the current circumstances.

United manager Sir Alex Ferguson, who last season stated the player owes the club “some service”, could hardly contain his frustration at the latest relapse in Hargreaves’ long recovery.

“I took a gamble with Hargreaves but he’d been training really well and I thought by picking him we’d have a compact midfield with experience,” Ferguson told MUTV.

“But it only lasted a couple of minutes, it was a disaster.”

It’s probably a sentiment the player and fans can agree with. Not that there isn’t considerable sympathy with the player, of course, despite the huge outlay on fee and salary for a player that has offered so little to the club.

At his best Hargreaves was an important addition to United’s midfield options. It is more than two and half years since the former England international was anywhere near his best though.

Indeed, history dictates that fans should not expect Hargreaves to return to the player of old, if he returns at all.

In Gary Neville and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer the club has already experienced two lengthy absences by important players. Neither returned the same.

Hargo is back pt. XXIX

Ed September 24, 2010 Tags: Shorts 7 comments

Owen Hargreaves is back in first team training and almost ready for a first team return says Sir Alex Ferguson. It is more than two years since the Canadian-born midfielder last started a game for Manchester United but Ferguson says that his progress has surprised him and that Hargreaves is pushing hard for a return to first team action.

Hargreaves played 45 minutes of a reserve fixture last season before at 30 second first team cameo away at Sunderland. But a serious relapse this summer meant that the former Bayern Munich midfielder did not travel with the United party on the North American tour. Instead, Hargreaves, 29, returned to Dr. Richard Steadman’s renowned Denver clinic more treatment.

“Owen Hargreaves has come back training, he trained yesterday with the first team. He looked very good. I was surprised actually how good he was looking,” said Ferguson told MUTV this morning, with all other press outlets banned from Carrington.

“It’s an extra string to our bow. Bringing him in at this time, after being out for so long, obviously we’ll have to monitor him and see how he’s going to progress in the next few weeks. But it’s good to see him back.

“Because he’s been out for so long you have to see whether there’s going to be a relapse. That’s the first thing on our mind at the moment but having watched him in training yesterday if he continues that way he’s going to give me another selection problem, no question about that.”

Hargreaves last started a game for United against Chelsea on 21 September 2008, after which the midfielder said he couldn’t walk for four days. Although named in Ferguson’s Premier League squad with just 24 senior players included, Hargreaves is not part of United’s Champions League party.

Inside Hargreaves’ knee

Ed July 18, 2010 Tags: Opinion 13 comments

News that Owen Hargreaves has returned to Dr. Richard Steadman’s Denver clinic has once again put the England international midfielder’s career in doubt. After just 25 starts in three years for United talk of retirement is now a serious consideration with Sir Alex Ferguson refusing to set a date for the 29-year-old’s return to first team action.

Hargreaves has undergone two operations to cure persistent patellar tendinitis, also known as Jumpers’ Knee, which has forced the combative midfielder to stay on the sidelines for the best part of the last two years. Indeed, the former Bayern Munich star played less than 30 seconds, against Sunderland, last season and just four games the campaign before as injury forced the midfielder under the surgeon’s knife.

The problem has left a long-term hole in United’s midfield, but what is patellar tendinitis and why could it cause Hargreaves’ premature retirement? Rant takes a look.

Patellar tendinitis

Patellar TendinitisThe patellar tendon attaches the quadriceps muscle group to the tibia, the larger and stronger of the two bones in the leg below the knee. These make up what is known as the ‘extensor mechanism’ of the knee, including the patellar or knee cap.

Patellar tendonitis is the common condition that arises when the patellar tendon and the tissues that surround it become irritated and inflamed, normally due to overuse. Jumping – hence the nickname – acceleration, deceleration, and landing cause a large amount of stress on this mechanism, with the healing process stopped until rest is taken.

The condition usually causes pain directly over the patellar tendon and in more serious cases swelling around the tendon itself.

Hargeaves’ problem

When Hargreaves broke his leg playing for Bayern Munich against Arminia Bielefeld in September 2006 the player returned just four months later, appearing during the last two months of the Germans’ campaign. The rapid return ultimately proved disastrous though, although neither player nor club knew it at the time.

When Hargreaves moved to United in summer 2007 there was little sign of the problems to come but now the player blames his speedy return to action and poor injury management by Bayern for the stress placed on both knees.

Initially United treated the problem with rest and injections – Hargreaves appeared in just 34 games in all competitions during the 2007/8 campaign, scoring a vital penalty against Chelsea during the Champions League final shoot-out that season.

But Hargreaves appeared in just three games the following season before the pain in his knees forced the player out and eventually into the hands of the surgeon.

Treatment

In most cases the micro-tears in the tendon associated with the condition will repair with significant rest and recuperation, ice, compression and injected anti-inflammatory drugs.

More serious cases may require eccentric loading, a form of physiotherapy that aims to strengthen muscle groups around the affected area to reduce stress on the joint and tendon itself. The worst forms of tendonitis can be treated with autologous blood injections – the injection of platelet rich plasma into the affected area.

SurgeryThen there is Hargreaves, whose knees were “the worst ever seen” by Steadman in 25 years operating on injured sportsmen. The Canadian-born player required Steaman to clean up both tendons after significant portions were shown as degenerative on an MRI.

The player underwent surgery on his right knee on 10 November 2008 and received a similar operation on his left knee in January 2009. While neither operation required a graft, Steadman removed lengths of damaged tendon, accessed by drilling holes through Hargreaves’ knee-cap.

The comeback

Six months of rest followed before Hargreaves began a very long programme of training with the reserve and first team squads. Not only is it important for the knee to settle down after the operation but Hargeaves also had to rebuild muscle around each knee.

Yet the player was no closer to a return, despite initially being named in Ferguson’s Champions League squad for the 2009/10 campaign. It proved a false dawn, with the Scot appearing to lay the blame for Hargreaves’ delayed return on a lack of confidence as the Scot removed the midfielder from United’s squad for the knock-out rounds.

The midfielder did finally return though, playing 27 seconds of United’s match at the Stadium of Light in March. Such was the optimism generated by the player’s comeback that England manager Fabio Capello even asked Ferguson if the 29-year-old would be able to take part in the World Cup this summer.

Then the potentially career ending blow – a further injury to Hargeaves’ knee in pre-season training and a return to Steadman’s Colorado clinic.

The cost

Hargeaves’ 38 appearances for United have come at considerable cost to the club. Quite apart from the £20.2 million fee paid to Bayern Munich after more than a year of negotiation, Hargreaves has also earned around £70,000 per week during his three years at Old Trafford.

That total investment in the player of £31.26 million, or £822,632 per appearance, hardly represents value in the market. The real cost, however, is to the player’s career which now lies in tatters, and to United’s squad structure that still lacks a player of the midfielder’s ilk.

Whether Hargreaves will play again before he turns 30 next January, if at all, is now in serious doubt.

Hargreaves: unfit or just fed up?

Ed May 12, 2010 Tags: Shorts 5 comments

Owen Hargreaves “stormed out of Old Trafford” following Sir Alex Ferguson’s decision not to pick the former Bayern Munich midfielder for his matchday squad against Stoke City last weekend, according to a story in the Sun today. Hargreaves, whose decision to leave Old Trafford early rather than watch the game, was put down to illness by Manchester United officials on Sunday.

According to the newspaper an “onlooker” spotted Hargreaves leaving Old Trafford at 3.10pm, 50 minutes before the match kicked off, certain that the 28-year-old’s chances of making Fabio Capello’s World Cup squad would only improve if the perennially injured midfielder played.

“At about 3.10pm a member of the security team got into a grey Audi and headed for Gate 4B of the Stretford End,” said the mole.

“The way the car moved off, I thought it was one of the Glazers trying to get away. But then Hargreaves appeared and he did not look happy. He didn’t hang about long.”

In truth Hargreaves wasn’t ready to play or Ferguson would have included the former Bayern Munich midfielder in his squad for the game. There is little unusual about returning home to rest due to illness.

England manager Fabio Capello confirmed Hargreaves lack of fitness.

“I spoke to Owen twice in Manchester and he’s not fit, not ready to play,” said Capello.

“He didn’t play for 18 months and for that reason, I can’t select him. He’s a really important player when he is fit.”

Very true, but perhaps there’s another reason Hargreaves made the quick get away. Rant’s sure we can spot the famous curly mop in there somewhere.

Could Hargreaves make Bolton return?

Ed March 25, 2010 Tags: Shorts No comments

Owen Hargreaves will not feature in Manchester United reserves fixture against Burnley tonight as he steps up training with the first team squad. The Canadian-born midfielder, who has missed 18 months following operations to cure tendinitis in both knees, made a 45 minute return to action for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s reserve team last week.

“Owen won’t play for the Reserves tonight,” Sir Alex Ferguson told ManUtd.com.

“He’s going to be training with the first team and we’ll see where that takes him. We’re keen to get him back involved because he’s an experienced player and will be a valuable addition for us in the run-in, when having a strong, fit squad is vital.”

Hargreaves, who suffers constant pain in his knees that needs regular injections, could play some part in United’s Premier League run in, although the midfielder is not registered for European competition.

The England international could even make a surprise return for United’s trip to Bolton this weekend.

Hargreaves returns!

Ed March 18, 2010 Tags: Shorts 1 comment

Owen Hargreaves made a very long-awaited return from injury tonight with a 45 minute long outing for Manchester United reserves against Burnley at Moss Lane, Altringham. The midfielder, on the sidelines for 18 months following a double knee operation on persistent tendonitis, made a low-key comeback in a very long road to recovery.

“It was the first step in what has been an incredibly long ordeal” said Hargreaves.

“I’m very happy that I can be back with an 11 v 11 and a referee at least. It was great. I’m fit. I have been training incredibly hard, I have been doing everything I possibly could.

“I have seen the inside of the gym for about six hours everyday so I have had enough of it. I’d like to get back to doing football work. I will just train with the team and when the sharpness comes back and I start to feel better then I will consider playing a first-team game.”

Owen Hargreaves

Hargreaves: I’m tough enough to come back

Ed March 18, 2010 Tags: Shorts 1 comment

Owen Hargreaves has rubbished suggestions that his Manchester United career is finished and says he has the mental and physical toughness to return in time for this summer’s FIFA World Cup finals in South Africa. The Canadian-born midfielder, sidelined for 18 months with tendonitis, is due to play in United’s reserve team fixture against Burnley tonight.

Speaking to The Telegraph, Hargreaves says that recovery from a double knee operation has been long and tough. Hargreaves’ last match for United came in September 2008.

“I could never have imagined in my darkest dreams something like this would happen to me,” the former Bayern Munich player told the Daily Telegraph.

“My athletic ability has taken me everywhere I wanted to go, from Canada to Germany, playing for England, playing for Man United. To have that temporarily taken away is humbling.”

Hargreaves blames poor rehabilitation from a broken leg sustained in the early part of his career at Bayern for creating the persistent tendonitis that world-renowned surgeon Dr. Richard Steadman described as resembling “a bomb that had gone off” in the international’s knees.

But the midfielder rejects suggestions that he isn’t tough enough to make a return after Sir Alex Ferguson labeled Hargreaves delayed comeback as one of “confidence”.

“Injuries take time. It’s not a question of can I go into a 50-50? I wouldn’t hesitate in the slightest. It’s more about managing my training, making sure I don’t do too much. If I play, shall I do 30 minutes? 40 minutes? Only I can feel it. If you have had double knee surgery you’re going to feel it,” added Hargreaves.

“I used to compete with my older brothers, who were physically stronger so I had to grind a bit. Obviously I had a lot of natural athletic ability but my competitiveness is probably my biggest attribute.

“The youth coach who brought me to Germany when I was 16 said to me after six or seven months: ‘What are you going to do when you go back to Canada?’ He wanted to rile me. I was defiant. ‘In a few years, I’ll be playing first team.’ I believed in myself.”

Hargreaves will play for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s reserve team fixture ato wat Burnley tonight. The tie takes place at Altrincham’s Moss Lane – get down if you can!