Saturday, July 04, 2009


Mickey the Manc

The big stories of this European summer transfer market have been the successive splurges of Real Madrid, but Michael Owen's move to Manchester United is a true curve-ball.

Genius or insanity from Sir Alex Ferguson? Perhaps nostalgia would be a better term, but it's hard to see the move working. With Cristiano Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez gone, some striking power was obviously needed, but a once-great striker for whom "injury-prone" is now virtually a middle name?

More importantly, it's hard to see Owen gelling particularly well with Wayne Rooney, although the latter has been far from an out-and-out striker in recent times. During Owen's annus mirabilis in 2001, he benefited greatly from having a big, powerful target man, in this case the hard-working Emile Heskey, in front of him; without such a figure to play off, he has never looked as effective. Dimitar Berbatov as a partner instead? Perhaps, but the Bulgarian hasn't quite looked settled at Manchester United as yet.

The furious pace which Owen possessed when he scored that dazzling World Cup goal against Argentina in 1998, and a memorable league hat-trick against Newcastle a few months later, is long gone. He might be able to make up for it with the sort of intelligence and positional intuition that distinguished Teddy Sheringham, another striker who moved to United late in his career, but it will be a tough ask.

My abiding image of Owen is of the forlorn, half-fit figure rushing around in search of second balls in England's dire opening game of the 2006 World Cup. He was only 26 at the time, but watching him, one could easily have gotten the impression that he was in his thirties already. He's 29 now, but, as they say, it's "an old 29".

Having said all that, I'd be delighted to see him prove me wrong. Pure, instinctive strikers are such a rare breed that when an outstanding specimen appears, a long and prolific career is all you can wish them.

Owen will surely have a good understanding with Rooney when they were young they both supported Everton [aka the school of science]were football was played like football should be played,
"...and a memorable league hat-trick against Newcastle a few months later..."

Loved that hat-trick. Downloaded a 25-minute highlights video of that game recently and it was great to watch again. Supplied the finishing touch for his first two goals after good work from a McManaman, Ince, Redknapp and Berger midfield that controlled things pretty easily, but his pace and agility was far more responsible for his glorious third goal in which he weaved past the defence and scored in the blink of an eye. All three goals came inside the first half in which he could've also had another, before he didn't really have much of a chance in the second in which Liverpool completely called it a day and defended.
I'm afraid you're reading it wrong here mikey. Owen will be at best on the bench, the next Ole Gunnar, brought on when his finishing prowess is needed. I can't see him being any more than squad player. Certainly not a starting attacker in a full-strength line-up.

His best form recently was incidentally playing in the hole behind Martins and Viduka under Keegan last season. There's more to the man in a footballing sense than finishing and now-gone pace.
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