Injuries usually happen through bad luck and once you suffer serious ones then it seems that the treatment table becomes that player’s best friend. In the case of Michael Owen he has had to deal with lengthy spells rehabilitating throughout his career. Nobody would have expected the news that he would be out of for the season when he injured his hamstring in the Carling Cup final but, at a time when it looks like Manchester United could do with his services, what does the future have in store for him?
Owen himself knows that he was only going to be a bit-part player at Old Trafford but at this stage of the season he could have found himself playing more games, thus having a chance to show his many doubters he could complete a season pretty much injury free and, along with attempting to score vital goals to deliver the trophies United are in the hunt for, that inevitable question of will he or wont he go to the World Cup. The chances are Fabio Capello would have resisted calling up Owen but for Sir Alex Ferguson the more pressing concern is what is in the best interest of both parties- Owen and United. With Wayne Rooney and Dimitar Berbatov as the established strikers, it remains to be seen whether Ferguson thinks Owen can come back again, like he has done on numerous occasions, or signal the end of Owen’s days at Old Trafford by signing a new striker this summer.
For the one time Liverpool, Real Madrid and Newcastle player assessing his future plans while he is away from the game may pose some tricky situations. It is well known that off the pitch Owen has a love for horse racing; something he puts a lot of concentration in to. He has been doing that for several years but at the age of 30 he will feel that he can still offer United something. Due to the fact that Ferguson brought Owen on a free transfer, and that the player’s value will have gone down, it seems highly unlikely that he will be sold. Ferguson was keen to stress that with all the debt problems at United, leading to rumours that some players will be sold to compensate that, Owen will not be one of them. He spoke highly of him and said: “He’s a great professional, he’s never missed a training session, his performances in training have been very good, and I think he has improved as a footballer in his time here. His general knowledge of the game is better, so is his linking play, and for the first time in his career he is getting used to coming on as a sub. I think he’s enjoying being a part of it here and he’ll definitely be here next season because I have absolutely no intention of letting him go.”
With Ferguson giving a positive outlook to the situation then the focus turns to whether or not Owen still believes he can do a worthwhile job at United. From his point of view he has been witnessing some incredible performances from Wayne Rooney and Owen happens to be at Old Trafford at a time when Rooney is constantly on the rise. Ferguson has previously stated that he would find it hard, tactically, to play Owen and Rooney together from the start and his team selections reflect that if anyone is going to partner Rooney it is Berbatov. As Ferguson alluded to, this is the first time in his career that Owen had been getting used to being a substitute and should he remain at United then the same will apply next season. Owen’s professionalism has always been first-rate but only he knows what his personal ambitions are in the game- ones that he has not fulfilled yet.
In an ideal world Owen would be the type of player that will come back and score goals for fun at United. That would be more likely to happen to a younger player but there is every chance Owen’s fragile body will not be able to keep up with the demands of being a Manchester United player. This is because if either Rooney or Berbatov got injured then Owen would probably be first in line to replace them- therefore being trusted to start and finish games in their absence. For someone with a predominantly clean record on and off the field, never falling out with managers or referees, along with an uncanny knack for finding the back of the net, it would be a shame if he had to hang up his boots. Be it horse racing, football or retirement, Michael Owen has to recover from his latest setback and, along with the aid of Manchester United, decide what path to take.
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