Date: 1st March 2011 at 2:59am
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One of the few bright points in another wise frustrating time

One of the few bright points in another wise frustrating time

Wayne Rooney escaping suspension and Chicharito’s brace made it a very good weekend for United”s strikers. One man could be forgiven for feeling a little bit less enthused by his fellow strikers good fortune.

Michael Owen is fast becoming the forgotten man of not just United but also world football. Let”s not forget this was a player who at the age of only eighteen was tipped for greatness and became almost overnight, one of the most-talked about strikers on the planet.

Now the likelihood of Owen breaking into the United team this season is almost non-existent as even the high scoring Chicharito will no doubt be dropped for the Chelsea game, despite his form. Almost a year ago to the day I wrote the following article about Owen:

Michael Owen was probably as shocked as anyone when he got the call from his agent telling him Sir Alex Ferguson wanted to speak to him. After a poor season at now relegated Newcastle, the ‘glossy brochure’ debacle and interest from no one apart from “Karaoke King” Phil Brown, Owen could have been forgiven for contemplating retirement. The fact that he risked the wrath of the Reds fans by joining the enemy from down the M62 seemed to matter little to Owen as he contemplated Champions League football, a title race and the chance to impress Capello at one of the big four. Signing for United must have seemed like a total no-brainer.

Many thought Fergie was taking a big risk on a player who had a reputation for being injury-prone, was considered to be past his best at 29 and had fallen behind the likes of Carlton Cole and Gabriel Agbonahlor in the England pecking order. Owen had even failed to convince Alan Shearer he was good enough to start in Newcastle’s relegation decider at Villa on the last day of the season. With Manchester City relieving United of a certain Argentinean striker and Benzema opting for the Bernabeu instead of Old Trafford it seemed the signing of Owen was something of a lacklustre response.

Owen’s injury-time winner in the ‘greatest derby off all time’ looked to have gone a long way to justifying Fergie’s decision to buy him, coming on for a disappointing Berbatov and producing exactly the sort of goal for which he’d been bought for. This was followed, a little further down the line, by a Champions league hat-trick in Germany which helped to evoke memories of that famous night in Munich when Owen seemed capable of carrying England to world cup glory.

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However, less than two months on and it’s a totally different story for the third-highest England goal scorer of all time. Owen handed a rare start against Hull two weeks ago appeared anything but confident, snapping at chances and failing to impress. There were also the United manager’s recent remarks about being unable to play Owen and Rooney together due to the similarities in their style of play.

With Rooney un-droppable it seems Owen will have to make do with cameo appearances or the occasional start against the lower clubs. The fact that Fergie is now often using Rooney as a lone striker means that even Berbatov is finding his chances limited. Owen is now facing the possibility of figuring even less in the second half of the season than he did in the first.

Transfer deadline day, was full of rumours that Owen was on his way somewhere on loan with Aston Villa mentioned as a possible destination.  This rumour, like so much of Owen’s season however flattered to deceive and he now finds himself stuck at Old Trafford with a mountain to climb to get into the first team.

It now seems that Owen is the one who truly gambled with his move to United, while Fergie had practically nothing to lose by getting him on a free. If Owen turns out to play any part in a United success this season Fergie will receive the credit for grabbing him when he did. If, as could well be the case, he hardly figures, the United manager can be justified in claiming he was worth getting as an experienced player who could provide cover for Rooney and Berbatov.

The problem of course is for Owen himself, every week that goes by his already slim World Cup hopes are getting positively anorexic. The only hope for him it would seem is that he’s given a chance by Fergie and manages to impress enough to persuade him a partnership with Rooney would be successful, thereby convincing Capello in the process. However as a betting man like Owen could probably tell you, the odds on that happening are long to say the least.

That’s where my article ended and a full year later with Owen  now 31 years-old and the emergence of Chicharito and blistering form of Berbatov his chances are looking few and far between. As for next season the possibilities look even slimmer with many expecting the rejuvenated Danny Welbeck to return. Owen’s England career is practically over with even Kevin Davies being preferred to him when they were both available.

With only two and a half months of the season left it would be something of a shock if Owen was to play much of a part. He could do of course, especially if one of the strikers suffers a knock but even then there’s no guarantee.

In the Summer there may be some top teams interested in Owen, there’s been talk of Everton, who seem to buy a striker every year without fail, coming in for the former Liverpool man. The sad thing is that what looked like a dream move and very nearly could have been, may well be two vital years wasted in the career of a player who if you told me in 1998 we’d sign when he was reaching his peak, I’d have been ecstatic.

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