Despite an impressive goals-to-games ratio during his time at
Real Madrid, Michael Owen was still considered surplus to requirements at the
Bernabeu in the summer of 2005 when the Spanish club cast him off to Newcastle with barely a
We all know what happened next - a series of injuries, a loss
of confidence, a lack of form and relegation from the Premier League.
But in a ironic twist of fate, it is the same Spanish club
who can be credited for salvaging Owen's faltering career four years later,
Owen's move to Manchester United took me completely by surprise.
Only last week I had suggested he stood a good chance of getting his career
back on track at "the most unlikely of places", Stoke City.
But if the Britannia Stadium was an improbable destination
for Owen to have ended up, what does that make Old Trafford?
Yet Owen has been given a golden chance to resurrect his
career at United - largely thanks to Real's utter domination of this summer's transfer
With the striker's former club having taken Cristiano
Ronaldo off United's hands, as well as beating them to the signing of Karim
Benzema and most probably Franck Ribery, United have been forced to look elsewhere.
United's loss has been Owen's gain.
His free transfer certainly represents a low-risk option for
Alex Ferguson, even though I still harbour doubts about his ability to make the
As I said last week, he has it all to prove and any success he
achieves will very much depend on his own hunger and desire. That remains true
for any player, regardless of destination.
He has been fortunate to be handed such a great opportunity
- effectively his pedigree in years gone by sealed the move for him - and it is
very much a case of last chance saloon for him at Old Trafford.
United fans will not mind that he is a former Liverpool
player - it has been too long since he left Anfield for that to be an issue - but
they will not give him the luxury of a bedding-in period.
Owen arrives as a proven Premier League goalscorer, not as a
youngster coming through the ranks or a foreigner on his first mission abroad. As
such he will be expected to perform right from his first appearance in a United
That is most likely to come from a position on the bench.
And that is what is most worrying about the move - Owen has never been an
impact player. He is no Carlos Tevez, hassling and harrying the opposition and
giving his team-mates a lift when they need it. And his loss of pace makes him
even less so.
Owen is better playing from the start, but he is unlikely to
get the chance to do that at United, with Dimitar Berbatov and Wayne Rooney
clearly ahead of him in the pecking order. Indeed, should United sign another
striker this summer, as is likely, Owen will find himself pushed even further
Owen is a goal poacher, but United have never needed that
kind of player. Even the likes of Andy Cole and Ruud van Nistelrooy, who both
arrived with reputations as poachers, managed to develop their all-round games successfully.
Owen will have to do the same if he is to prove his worth as
a United player. And only then will he be able to consider an England recall, something which clearly
features high on his agenda.
He has been quick to alert Fabio Capello to his intentions,
but he should not be talking about that just yet. Just being at Manchester
United will not guarantee him an England call-up.
It does not work like that - I won more of my England caps
playing for QPR than for United - and Capello is smart enough to pick the best
players, regardless of their club.
But should Owen adapt to his new role at United and show the
desire and passion to perform for his new club, there is a chance he could win back
his international place and prove Ferguson
to have completed a clever bit of business.