Owen Hargreaves’ ability to resurrect his career is in serious doubt after Sir Alex Ferguson left the Canadian-born midfielder out of his Champions League squad. It means that Hargreaves, who has not played for United since September 2008, can now only feature in Premier League matches for the rest of the season – if he returns at all.
Hargreaves returned to Manchester in September following two operations on his knee by the surgeon Dr. Richard Steadman in Denver, USA. The surgery, performed in a bid to cure the former-Bayern Munich player of persistent patella tendonitis, were widely regarded as successful.
Initially manager Sir Alex Ferguson pencilled in an autumn for Hargreaves and included the player in the club’s 25 man Champions League group stages squad. The player, who is now training part-time with the first team squad, lacks the confidence to return to full training according to Ferguson and there is now no date set for a return to action.
But the midfielder and his manager sounded optimistic of a return to action when he arrived at Carrington on 23 September last year.
“It will be an amazing feeling to run out at Old Trafford again. I’ll be so excited I’ll probably pass out,” Hargreaves said in September.
“I just want to be part of it again, to be available and healthy. I can’t wait to get involved.
“I want to be able to pull on the shirt and have an effect on games. I just want to compete in matches, work with the coaches to improve my game and become a better player.
“I want a good season to repay the faith shown in me by the United fans.”
Hargreaves continued absence is a blow both to club and country, with United missing the combative nature of the midfielder’s game, despite Darren Fletcher’s emergence as a genuine top-class talent.
Fabio Capello also had the midfielder in mind for a place in England’s 2010 FIFA World Cup squad but with 14 Premier League games available for Hargreaves to prove his fitness it remains a huge long-shot.
Hargreaves, named England’s player of the tournament in Germany fours years ago, started for United in the May 2008 Champions League win over Chelsea in Moscow.
But the midfielder’s long-term future at the club is in serious doubt, with a contract that ends in June 2011 and no sign that the club is set to negotiate new terms with the player. Hargreaves has started just 25 games for United since a summer 2007 £19 million move from Bayern.
Such is the dismay with Hargreaves’ slow progress that it is even now conceivable that the club will choose to cut its losses on the player, pay off the remaining year of his contract and allow the 29-year-old to find a new club or retire.
Hargreaves is replaced in the Champions League party by Belgian defender Ritchie de Laet, who started against Wolverhampton Wanderers and Fulham during the recent defensive injury crisis.
Also added is Mame Biram Diouf, the Senegalese striker signed from Norwegian outfit Molde. Diouf, who scored on his début last month, has hit the net four times in recent reserve outings.