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A £17m transfer dilemma that Manchester United boss is set to face

Football FanCast columnist Rob Swan looks at Owen Hargreaves stop start career at United and wonders if
Sir Alex will consider cashing in on him in the summer.

Since Owen Hargreaves arrived at the club two summers ago, his time at the
club has been continually hampered by a series of successive injuries. As a
result of his unfortunate tendency to pick up knocks, the energetic defensive
midfielder has only amounted 25 appearances since he joined from Bayern

With Sir Alex Ferguson rumoured to be growing increasingly frustrated at not
being able to select the 27-year-old on a regular basis, would it be beneficial
in the long run if the Red Devils were to offload the England

There was a time when Hargreaves was the butt of all jokes amongst the
less-knowledgeable football supporters in England. His presence in the England
national side would often spark questions of how he even managed to claim a
place in the squad, despite the fact he was a regular in the Bayern Munich
midfield, and won a European Cup winners medal with the German giants.

And then came the 2006 World Cup. Hargreaves' tireless performance against
Portugal in the quarter-final of the tournament changed even his fiercest
critics' opinion of him, and it appeared, was the day Ferguson's desire to
bring the defensive midfielder to Manchester developed.

After waiting over a year, the Scot finally got hold of his man, paying £17m
for his services in the process. However, rather than the indefatigable figure
supporters saw in the previous World Cup finals, United fans were often left
being informed in one way or another that their 2007 signing was in for another
lengthy spell on the sidelines.

When fit, Hargreaves is a decent squad player to have in the team, but
indispensable he most certainly isn't. His versatility is arguably his greatest
asset; being able to play in center midfield or at right-wing, or in several
instances during last season, at right-back, and is a trait that Ferguson holds
in high regard amongst his players. But in the same way that Louis Saha was a
real threat upfront, when fit, the problem lies with an inability to remain

Offloading Hargreaves wouldn't be a particularly smart move this early on in
his United career, especially considering his versatility and boundless energy
in ensuring he chases down the opposition. But despite his reasonably decent
performances in a United shirt, it's difficult not to believe that had it not
been for that one performance against Portugal, Hargreaves probably wouldn't
have been at Old Trafford at all.

There may well be a handful of defensive midfielders in Europe who possess
greater attributes than the Canadian-born midfielder, but Hargreaves is
undoubtedly a decent option for Ferguson to have at his disposal. He brings
something different from Scholes, Anderson, Carrick and Fletcher, his engine
being the main thing that sets him apart from the rest.

Replacing him wouldn't necessarily be an easy task either, with a shortage of
top-class traditional defensive midfielders in the modern game all commanding
higher prices than in previous years. Hargreaves does everything asked of him
in that position; he knows how to close down the opposition, how to tackle and
how to play the simple ball, not to mention his set-piece prowess, with his
crowning moment in a United shirt coming at Old Trafford courtesy of a
free-kick against Arsenal last April which proved to be the winning goal.

With a bit of good fortune, Hargreaves will soon be back in contention for a
place in the starting line-up. If he continues to struggle to overcome his
injury nightmare, though, Ferguson may well end up looking at possible
alternatives before the season ends, as Everton's Louis Saha will duly testify.


Article title: A £17m transfer dilemma that Manchester United boss is set to face

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