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Michael Owen Signing Indicates Ferguson is Looking For Solskjaer’s Heir

Few predicted it (although Catch Seventy7 weren’t far off), but bearing the giant hurdle of a thorough medical, it looks likely Michael Owen will sign for Manchester United. Is Fergie hoping Owen will become Solskjaer Mk II?

Michael Owen: Made it through the rain...

Michael Owen: Made it through the rain...

It has not been a particularly happy few months for Michael Owen.
First he saw his then-employers, Newcastle United, suffer a heart-breaking relegation from the Premier League while he was forced to watch much of the run-in from the treatment table.
Then, as his contract expired, he had to sit back as newspapers and fans alike almost unanimously wrote him off—with one national paper even suggesting he should retire.
Commendably, Owen remained upbeat, and kept his dignity intact.
“When I scored a goal in the World Cup as an 18-year-old, people six months later were writing me off saying, ‘It’s a one-off’,” Owen said in a rare interview during his difficult period. “There will be something, there always is—this country is renowned for it. Someone will always criticise you, no matter what.”
On the back of his ill-fated 32-page brochure intended to create interest—which became another stick with which to beat him—Owen had to endure the relative ignominy of seeing only Hull City and Stoke City publicly declaring their interest in him. 
Even Sam Allardyce stated he would not look to sign Owen, even though realistically neither Blackburn nor the two clubs that did enter the “race” could have entertained realistic ambitions of luring the England international.
But with Manchester United’s surprise approach, it looks like all that strife will soon be forgotten.
Owen will get the last laugh.
After a frantic day of rumour and counter-rumour, it looks likely the 29-year-old will agree a move to Old Trafford this week, subject to a medical undertaken later today. The contract, rather sensibly, is expected to be incentive-based, with a low basic wage but sizable bonuses based on appearances and goals.
With Owen (who has a moderately successful horse-training venture) hardly needing the money but intent on playing at the highest level possible, and Manchester United in need of attacking players after the loss of Cristiano Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez, it looks like a deal that will suit all sides.
Once Owen signs, the topic of discussion will inevitably move onto how Sir Alex Ferguson intends to use the England striker.
Depending on fitness, it is probable that Ferguson sees Owen as the long-awaited heir to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s former role at the club.
The Norwegian striker made himself a cult figure at Old Trafford with his ability to join games late and make an impact almost immediately. Solskjaer is the top scorer from the substitutes bench in Premier League history, helping himself to an impressive 26 goals in the latter stages of important matches.
It should not be forgotten that Ferguson has long been admirer of Owen’s—and even tried to sign the England schoolboy before Liverpool eventually agreed a deal. That interest was piqued as much through Owen’s attitude and finishing as his raw pace—attributes he still possesses.
Sir Alex has seen first hand that, even without the pace that sparkled during their early career, players can still contribute at the highest level. If Ryan Giggs can do it, why can’t Michael Owen?
With Solskjaer still on the United staff as a youth coach, Ferguson will be hoping that with Owen’s inherent quality and a little direction from the former Norwegian striker, the England man too will be able to make regular game-changing contributions for United from the bench.
In recent times, Owen’s goals have come as a result not of his quickness of movement, but instead due to his quickness of thought—a quality that, far from diminishing with age, should actually improve.
In his fleeting performances with Newcastle this term, Owen demonstrated that he still possesses a lightning fast footballing brain. What he lacked, perhaps understandably, was match sharpness.
If the world-class United physios can keep Owen upright, then that match sharpness should return. And with the quickness of thought and opportunities he will be regularly presented with in the box, he could prove a vital weapon for United in what is currently a slightly barren attacking armoury.
But even if injuries continue to dog him, Ferguson might well see another role for a man with 89 international caps and 40 goals.
Reassured by Owen’s conduct during a trying time, Ferguson might well have given thought to the mentoring role Owen could bring to the club. While many believe Owen has been half the player he was since injuries decimated his turn of pace, a close analysis of his game indicates that his speed of thought and movement within the box has got even better with age.
With Ferguson having high hopes for both Danny Welbeck (“Danny’s a certainty to make it to the highest level,” he said last season. “I’ve told Fabio Capello he will be at the World Cup”) and Italian Federico Macheda, the Scot would be justified in thinking that even if the 29-year-old continues to suffer horrendously from injuries, the advice and technique he could pass on to the two young strikers might later prove invaluable to the club.
He can help them technically, but also mentally—on and off the pitch. Like Owen, both Welbeck and Macheda are set to become worldwide superstars at a very young age. Having experienced the pressures and influences such stardom brings, Owen will be able to advise the players on how to keep grounded and ensure that football remains their top priority.
That is something that will attract Sir Alex Ferguson.
A week ago, despite all the evidence to the contrary, Owen was upbeat about his career prospects.
“I will come back, I will play well and score goals and do all these things once more,” he said.
Perhaps such a statement was what Ferguson needed to hear, to convince him that a player he once highly coveted still has the desire to play at the highest echelons of the game.
Now he will get that chance.

It has not been a particularly happy few months for Michael Owen.

First he saw his then-employers, Newcastle United, suffer a heart-breaking relegation from the Premier League while he was forced to watch much of the run-in from the treatment table.

Then, as his contract expired, he had to sit back as newspapers and fans alike almost unanimously wrote him off — with one national paper even suggesting he should retire.

Commendably, Owen remained upbeat, and kept his dignity intact.

“When I scored a goal in the World Cup as an 18-year-old, people six months later were writing me off saying, ‘It’s a one-off’,” Owen said in a rare interview during his difficult period. “There will be something, there always is—this country is renowned for it. Someone will always criticise you, no matter what.”

On the back of his ill-fated 32-page brochure intended to create interest — which became another stick with which to beat him — Owen had to endure the relative ignominy of seeing only Hull City and Stoke City publicly declaring their interest in him. 

Even Sam Allardyce stated he would not look to sign Owen, even though realistically neither Blackburn nor the two clubs that did enter the “race” could have entertained realistic ambitions of luring the England international.

But with Manchester United’s surprise approach, it looks like all that strife will soon be forgotten.

Owen will get the last laugh.

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July 3, 2009 Posted by | Sport, World Football | , , | Leave a comment

Michael Owen Deserves Chance to Reclaim Status Among World’s Best

He’s not even 30, yet some newspapers are already (falsely) printing suggestions he is contemplating retirement this summer. But Michael Owen still has a lot to offer on the football pitch, and he intends to get the chance to show it…

Owen: A fan of Pro Evo, is a friend of Catch Seventy7's...

Owen: Any fan of Pro Evo, is a friend of Catch Seventy7's...

Much has been made in the past week of Michael Owen’s almost unprecedented decision to authorise the distribution of a 32-page sales brochure detailing, in quite some depth, why clubs around Europe should bid for the England international’s services.

To many, such a move has been taken as an example of the desperation Owen feels for his professional future, another indication of how the once prodigious young striker’s career has quickly deteriorated.

After all, many seem to believe that his career is all but over. Retirement, as one daily newspaper was foolish enough to print, seems imminent.

In reality, the brochure is there to counter exactly such pre-conceptions.

The execution might not be quite there (indeed, some of it is cringe-inducing), but the idea should not be dismissed out of hand. In recent years, as the wealth within football has reached astronomical levels, we have come to expect out of contract footballers to be courted extensively by interested clubs, rather than the other way round. But in this current economic climate no one, not even footballers, should be criticised for doing something unpredictable in an attempt to make themselves stand out to potential employers.

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June 26, 2009 Posted by | Sport, World Football | | Leave a comment