Posts Tagged ‘owen


Surely Owen would have been a better option for Capello

Michael Owen shows "Ze Germans" how its done

Michael Owen shows "Ze Germans" how its done

To be brutally honest Michael Owen is not my favourite Manchester United player, I appreciate the effort he puts in and like every other United fan duly went mad in the 4-3.

However with the young strikers Sir Alex Ferguson has at his disposal, this season I’ve questioned whether United really need the former Liverpool hero.

There’s no doubt Owen can still do a good job, my argument was that with the likes of Kiko Macheda and Chicharito available as back-up to the front two of Wayne Rooney and Dimitar Berbatov, did United really need a striker who’ll be 31 in December and has had more than is fair share of injury problems.

I’ve already been pretty much proven wrong as Owen’s brace in the League Cup away at Scunthorpe and more importantly his equaliser at Bolton justified Fergie sticking with him, at least until January.

There’s also the point that having an experienced finisher like Owen in the squad can only be beneficial to the young strikers, who can maybe learn a thing or two from him. After all in a career that’s taken in two of the top clubs in Europe- as well as Liverpool and Newcastle, plus a host of international caps, Owen has always delivered goals and is perhaps the ideal player for someone like Chicharito to learn from.

Despite not being Michael Owen’s biggest fan, even I had to admit being totally dumfounded by his omission from the recent England squad. It’s not that Owen has exactly been a regular for Manchester United this season but surely a player with 40 England goals would have been handy to at least have on the bench.

When it comes to not getting regular football, Owen has started only two games this season, a reason Capello has bandied about for not picking players in the past, we all know that’s poppycock- if you pardon my French.

The nadir of my time as an England fan was watching Emile Heskey take to the field in Bloemfontein as Germany soared into a three goal lead. Heskey had been a substitute more times than he’d started for Aston Villa that season- don’t get me started on how many goals he’d managed- yet found himself playing for the national side at the biggest tournament there is.

Capello’s ‘if you’re not playing regularly for your club, you won’t play for your country’ line just doesn’t ring true. This season Shaun Wright Phillips has figured in less games for Manchester City than Owen has for United, yet the tiny winger still found himself coming off the bench against Montenegro.

I was actually hoping Wayne Rooney might not figure against Montenegro, I thought he should have a few more days off before the game against West Bromwich Albion on Saturday. There seems to be this constant cycle of Rooney having a slight knock coming back and not looking right that’s been going on for months. I advocated a couple of full weeks off following his latest ‘slight injury’ and rather foolishly thought England could afford to rest him, against despite what all the England propaganda machine will tell us, should have been a relatively easy side to beat.

However with injuries to Darren Bent and Jermaine Defoe Rooney was about as likely to be rested as Robert Green was to have been picked to start.

The news that the ‘people’s elbow’ Kevin Davies was in the squad made Rooney’s selection seemed more assured. After all if Wazza wasn’t starting then the front two would have been Davies and Crouch and despite Crouch’s goal tally in an England shirt, Capello seems to have a lack of faith in him.

It was the sight of 33 year-old Davies making his debut as England looked for a winning goal that caused me the most confusion since I flicked over to the X-factor on Saturday and saw a Jimmy Saville look-a-like playing a set of bongo drums.

What on earth is going on?! Why would someone who’s fourth in the all-time England goal scoring charts and still deemed good enough to play Champion’s League football, not be at least given a small chance over a player who’s never played, let alone scored for England?

It seems Owen just isn’t on Capello’s radar which is a shame for both him and England because as last night’s bore draw showed- how many shots on target did England muster?- he could have been useful.

In the past Capello has shown he is willing to swallow his pride and bring formerly exiled players back into the fray if he needs them, as he did with David Beckham at Real Madrid.

While it’s hardly time to start panicking the fact is poor performances against mediocre opposition just aren’t good enough for many fans who spend a lot of money following England. If Capello wants to give himself the best chance in qualifying smoothly maybe turning to Owen wouldn’t be such a bad idea.


five things we learnt from United’s game at Sunderland

Anderson gets involved in a Malbranque and Cattermole sandwich- poor lad

Anderson gets involved in a Malbranque and Cattermole sandwich- poor lad

Manchester United may remain  unbeaten but their away form continues to disappoint as
Saturday’s match at Sunderland can really be considered yet another missed opportunity.

Although like previous trips on the road there were positives, not even the best MUTV-style spin can hide the fact that no wins in four away games is simply not good enough for Sir Alex Ferguson’s men. Forgive me but I for one am a little tired of trying to ‘look on the brightside’ as Chelsea edge further and further away at the top of the table-and let’s not even mention the noisy neighbours.

When a Liverpool defeat is the highlight of your footballing weekend, you know that certain issues need to be adressed and its time for United to deal with them before its too late. Yes Sunderland are a good side- just like Fulham, Everton and Bolton- but you cannot win league titles by failing to win your away fixtures and watching City leapfrog over United in the table merely underlines the fact that something’s not right.

Of course, as I’m thinking of getting tattooed on my forehead ‘its not all doom and gloom’ but like Mickey Phelan’s penchant for wearing shorts no matter what the climate, United’s  failure to beat what is essentially a mid-table team is getting rather troubling.

So what did we learn from the trip to the second-best Stadium of Light in football other than the fact that it’s becoming compulsory to put ‘draw’ on the accumulator coupon next to a United away game?

Rafael is the present not the future. Rafael Da Silva picked up where he left off in Valencia with another quality display at right back. Okay he made the occasional mistake but how else is he going to learn if he’s not given the chance to make them? When it comes to mistakes the young Brazilian has a long way to go before he matches the amount John O’Shea can usually muster, so it looks like it may be time to give him a proper run in the side. Defensivley Rafael can be a tad worrying but that will surely improve and the lack of an outstanding candidate at right back- even though I think Wes Brown is world-class, but for some reason Fergie doesn’t agree- it is now time to give the youngster his chance.

Saturday’s performance was another reason why its now time to give Rafael the run he deserves, he may be young and occasionally a little reckless but he’s a quality player and a real threat going forward, as someone once sang ‘the time to hesitate is through.’

Too many strikers can get messy. I’m all for having five options up front but if United are going to make the most of them then Fergie needs to work out the right ones to use for the right games. Michael Owen  was totally anonymous in the first half and while he can lament the lack of service- rightfully so- it was obvious United would have benefitted from the energy of Chicharito or the class of Dimitar Berbatov. I realise that Berbatov had played a mid-week game as a lone striker and Fergie may have felt he was not up to ninety minutes but surely if he can play one half he can manage two. United looked a far better team when Berbatov was on the pitch- ditto Chicharito- and had either of them been given more minutes then we may have seen a different result.

Darren Fletcher needs to improve. Sunderland seemed to work out fairly quickly that keeping Paul Scholes quiet was a surefir way to stifle the brunt of United’s creativity. With Scholes was being closed down within seconds of recieving the ball it meant that it was up to others to try and conjure up something in midfield. Anderson gets stuck in but is still yet to get back to full fitness. The game was crying out for Fletcher to do more than just tackle people and give the ball to Scholes. At the start of the season I claimed that if United were to regain the title then Fletcher had to raise his game against the so-called ‘lesser teams.’ Put him against Chelsea or Arsenal and Fletcher’s like a man possessed, however he needs to do it more consistently. There is an argument that he’s merely a defensive midfielder not responsible for creating attacks. However we’ve seen Fletcher influence games in the past, moving the ball forward and it was crying out for something similar at the Stadium of Light. Like the game against Bolton the Scottish skipper seemed unwilling or unable to generate any sort of attacking moves and United suffered because of it.

Rio Ferdinand is vital. If United are to win the title, then they’re going to need Ferdinand for at least the majority of games. Rioferdy5 as he calls himself on twitter was back to his commanding best and United looked a lot better because of it. While Jonny Evans has done an admirable job filling in for Ferdinand he’s not quite in the same class and despite the fact that Nemanja Vidic was wearing the captain’s armband it was Rio who seemed to be marshalling the defence. United’s second successive clean sheet with Ferdinand back in the starting line-up is no coincidence.

Patrice Evra should not be ‘rested.’ Some may disagree- as they always do with a lot of what I write- but for me Evra is the world’s best left-back and is absolutely fundamental to the United team. Although he’s not looked as sharp since the World Cup -debacle- he’s still an immense threat going forward and the prospect of him and Rafael getting down the wings on the overlap would have been a scary one for Steve Bruce’s men.  In the second half we even saw Vidic getting down the left flank- my mate called it ‘disorganised’ I called it ‘total football.’ I’m aware that Evra played midweek but I feel dropping him was a gamble that backfired as although O’Shea did put in the -extremely- occasional cross he’s never going to be as much of a threat as Evra.


Time for Fergie to get tough with injury-prone trio?

Can Hargreaves really be relied upon anymore?

Can Hargreaves really be relied upon anymore?

Owen Hargreaves’ latest injury set-back will have come as little surprise to many of the Old Trafford faithful. While there’s no denying the midfielder’s abitilty and the fact that when he’s fit, United look a much stronger team, after two seasons of inactivity, questions about his capacity to return to action only increase. Hargreaves has endured the sort of injury problems that must be every footballers worst nightmare. With severe tendonitis in both knees, Hargreaves underwent an operation which supposedly meant he’d miss pretty much all of the 2008/09 campaign. Yet more than one season on there still seems to be no real end in sight for his injury lay-off with him now expected to miss the start of the upcoming season.

Sir Alex Ferguson has at times seemed to lose a little patience with Hargreaves, claiming in the latter part of last season that the reason the midfielder wasn’t ready for first-team action was due to lack of confidence rather than physical ailments. Then there were reports at the end of the season that Hargreaves had stormed out of training after Ferguson had told him he would not be figuring in the final game against Stoke City- thereby scuppering any slight chance he had of making the England World Cup squad.

Hargreaves wasn’t the only English- sort of- United player who wouldn’t need to worry about the deafening noise of vuvuzelas this summer. Perennial injury victim Michael Owen, lost any slight chance he had of making the plane, when he limped out of the Carling Cup final. I for one was against the signing of Owen as I felt he wouldn’t last the season and his signing would prevent United pursuing a much needed striker. I have to confess following his derby day last-minute winner, I did change my mind slightly, but the doubts remained. Owen, like Hargreaves, when fully fit is world-class, of that there can be little doubt. His hat-trick away at Wolfsburg showed that he can still perform at the top level, however it wasn’t long before the injury demons reared their ugly head and he was back on the treatment table.

Owen’s injury problems have been well documented for years now and no doubt helped contribute to the lack of interest in him when he was a free agent- causing the brochure debacle. Fergie obviously thought the striker still had a lot to offer and at one point looked like being proven right. Now though it seems Owen may find it even harder to get back in to the United side with Rooney, Berbatov not to mention Javier Hernandez plus Kiko Macheda, Mame Diuof and Danny Welbeck all fighting for positions. The question is will Fergie give Owen another chance- a real chance not just Carling Cup and seemingly easy Champion’s League games- to get into the starting XI?

One player who’s place in the starting side is pretty much guaranteed- as long as he’s fit of course- is the part-time England Captain, Merker, Film Producer, Website Entrepeneur, Rio Ferdinand. I’m a big fan of Rio’s, but the startling reality is the former Leeds man hasn’t looked fully fit for almost two years now. Coming back from numerous injuries United’s sometime captain often looks a little out of sorts, whether its pace or concentration wise. Ferdinand like Owen and Hargreaves, is a truly world-class player when he’s fit, but like his two occasional England- and United for that matter- colleagues, he’s rarely fully fit. Last season he started less games than Ledley King and then there was the whole coming back from injury only to get banned in his first game back for elbowing Craig Fagan episode.

The problem with Ferdinand is whenever he’s fit he comes back into the side more often than not for one or two games then is out again. This leaves Jonny Evans in and out of the team struggling to get the consistent run he both needs and deserves.

The point I’m making about all three players is when is it time to admit defeat and move on? All three are around the 30 year mark, Ferdinand and Owen being the wrong side of it. With youngsters coming through or available in each of their positions, is it time for Fergie to give other players a chance and call time on the trio’s Old Trafford careers?

This may sound harsh on all three, after all Hargreaves and Ferdinand were instrumental in helping United win the double in 2008, while Owen has only been given one season to prove himself.

However, keeping changing the defence does nothing for stablility and isn’t going to help Evans develop a relationship with Vidic or gain the consistent run he needs. Players like Hernandez and Macheda are the future and should surely be given a crack of the whip sooner rather than later as it will probably only be as Rooney’s understudy anyway, so pushing them further down the pecking order to accomodate Owen seems slightly short-sighted.

As for Hargreaves, while theres no denying the jury is still out on Anderson and Michael Carrick has actually gone backwards recently, can United afford to consider the Canadian-born midfielder a viable option? Is it not time to admit that he may never regain full fitness, or be the player he was two seasons ago and start looking at other options?

While many United fans may disagree, after all who can forget what all three players have done for the team at certain times, with Chelsea looking strong, Arsenal keeping hold of Cesc Fabregas and Manchester City buying most of Europe, is it now time for United to start looking forwards, however hard that may seem.