Michael Owen will be manager Sir Alex Ferguson’s final prominent signing of the summer, according to the boss himself. While speculation has focused on who will replace the departed Cristiano Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez, Sir Alex insists that United has acquired the right signings, at the right price.
Speaking at the unveiling of Michael Owen, Antonio Valencia and Gabriel Obertan this afternoon, Ferguson blamed the inflated transfer market for the failure to land a big-name signing.
“Everywhere in England and in Europe the players’ values have shot sky high,” said Ferguson.
“I don’t think any of the transfers that you see happening are realistic but for some reason the market seems to have caught fire this summer. It is a very unusual summer and difficult to get value because of that.
“It’s always been the case that Manchester United have to pay a bit extra. But this summer we were not prepared to do that because we have got some very good young players.
“There didn’t need to be a kneejerk reaction to losing Cristiano Ronaldo. We did very well to keep him for six years. He wanted to go, and we allowed him to do that.
“We shouldn’t panic because one or two players are leaving. I think we have a very, very good squad with good young players in all positions.
“We asked about Benzema and we had a value for him. Lyons have done well because they got €42m but I think we took a sensible view.
“It’s the end of our business, so forget all these stories about who we’re supposed to be getting.”
Many United fans will be disappointed that the manager is not willing to open the cheque-book up and spend some of his reported £125 million summer transfer budget. A top class forward, left winger and defensive midfielder would undoubtedly enhance United’s team. But assuming that Ferguson’s budget is still available should he want it (and that may be a leap of faith given the club’s debt), then there is much to be admired in the boss’ approach. The United board has long been criticised for paying over the odds. This summer, in the face of bankrupt spending by Real Madrid, and the petro-dollars available at City, Ferguson has placed faith in value, youth and his own intuition.
While United does retain an interest in Gremio’s attacking midfielder Douglas Costa, it is likely that a deal will only be done for the Brazilian if his club backs down from their demanding for an eye-watering £20 million. The under-21 international is undoubtedly talented but when leading pundits in Brazil question whether United are “being conned,” then the club is right to set a price, and stick to it as they did with Karim Benzema.
Moreover, most United fans will appreciate the faith that is being placed in the talented youth team duo of Danny Welbeck and Federico Macheda. Ferguson has built his reputation on placing faith in the vitality of youth and there’s nothing wrong with doing so again.
The major risk is that of Owen, whose form and injury record over the past few seasons is far from impressive. With no top-class forward now likely to join United this summer, Owen will be relied on more than many United fans had first thought. It’s a risk that Owen rejects.
“It does irritate me that so many people have doubts,” said Owen, who has been handed Ronaldo’s number seven shirt. “If there is one thing I am angered by, the injury thing would be it.
“There is no doubt I have had injuries in my career. But there is a long list of players that have had a broken metatarsal. I was foolish trying to rush back for the World Cup and my leg had just come out of plaster. But I played 33 and 32 games in the last two years in a team that was not in Europe and did not go on a decent cup run. Still I was continually labelled injury-prone, which gets up my nose.
“I am 29 and have played over 500 games for club and country. That says it all.”
However, even if Owen remains fit and regains the form of old, the consequence of not spending big this summer will be felt on the pitch. History shows that Owen, Valencia and Obertan – 12 goals between them last season – cannot replace Tevez and Ronaldo who scored 41.