Where do you turn if two high profile attacking players leave and your number one transfer target heads elsewhere? You get out the cheque book and spend some of your £100 million summer transfer budget. Right? Wrong! In fact, you fall further into your dystopian nightmare in which public rejection, is followed by public humiliation. Get out the stocks – it’s time to become a public laughing stock.
In this footballing torment, you might even bring in a washed up, ageing ‘striker’ who hasn’t scored a goal in six months, with an injury record that reads broken metatarsal, knee ligament damage, double hernia operation, thigh strain and countless hamstring strains. Then you wake up and fall to your knees in prayer. Say it ain’t so. Michael Owen signs for Manchester United!
But it is so and manager Sir Alex Ferguson is known to be a long time fan of Owen. Indeed, the boss tried has to sign the player three times – first aged 14 in 1994, second on his return from Real Madrid in 2005, and then again a year later before the player suffered a serious knee injury at the World Cup in Germany.
Owen may be only 29, but his footballing peak was 11 full years ago, with that goal against Argentina in Saint-Etienne. His record at Newcastle isn’t bad in a poor team – the former Liverpool player made 79 appearances for the Barcodes and scored 30 goals in four seasons. But his last league goal was on 10 January against West Ham, and his form so poor that friend Alan Shearer even dropped him from the Toon team in their desperate fight against relegation last season. His star has fallen so far that Hull and Stoke were apparently fighting it out for his signature, while Wigan and Blackburn publicly questioned the player’s bottle and ability.
In fact, anybody who followed Owen over the closing months will have seen a striker stripped of all his pace, confidence and desire. Without that there is little left of value in the player. Yet, Sir Alex has moved quickly following the failure to sign Olympique Lyonnais’ Karim Benzema, in a move that smacks of total desperation.
Let’s hope that Owen, even if fit, will be little more than an experienced insurance policy against injuries to Wayne Roony or Dimitar Berbatov. Most United fans would prefer to trust in the youth of Danny Welbeck and Federico Macheda. More worrying still is what the signing says about Wayne Rooney’s hopes of playing a central role for United next season. In Sir Alex’ prefered 4-2-3-1 system, there’s little room for both unless the younger Scouser is once again pushed towards the wing.
Ferguson’s stock is high, of course, but ultimately United supporters will find it hard to forgive Owen’s Liverpool loving history. A vociferously celebrated winning goal at the Kop End would be a good start.