Michael Owen was last night ruled out of contention for Fabio Capello's England squad on the same day that he declared his intention to revive his international career. The Manchester United striker limped out of the Champions League victory over Wolfsburg after just 20 minutes with Fabio Capello in the Old Trafford stands.
Owen, 29, was always a long shot for the World Cup qualifiers against Ukraine on 10 October and Belarus four days' later but Capello's presence at the game suggested that the England manager was at least prepared to give him a chance. Instead Owen faces three weeks on the sidelines recovering from another groin injury.
Sir Alex Ferguson played down fears about Owen's long-term durability last night although it will not have escaped his attention that taking penalties against journalists at an event for sponsor Tissot on Monday will not have been the ideal rest for such an injury-prone player. In Cyprus, Chelsea also went top of their group with a Nicolas Anelka goal enough to beat Apoel Nicosia.
Owen said yesterday before the game that he was "passionate as ever" about playing for England. Last night was just his third start for the club since he joined in the summer. Ferguson said: "He felt his groin in training on Sunday and he trained a little bit on Monday, had a rest on Tuesday and he thought he was fine. Groins are groins and on a wet surface like that he's turned quickly, it has gone again and we've had to take him off. It's not serious, but groin injuries can be troublesome and it could be two to three weeks."
The goals from Ryan Giggs and Michael Carrick after Edin Dzeko's opener for Wolfsburg shocked Old Trafford won the game for United.
In Nicosia, Anelka scored the only goal of the game after 18 minutes but even so Carlo Ancelotti was very critical of his players at half-time. Ancelotti said: "I agree it was a good result it wasn't a good performance. We started with good control, scored a goal, and we had opportunities to do quick counter-attacks after that, but we didn't do this.
"I'm not satisfied. I wanted Chelsea to play better and to take more control, to play with courage. But I think that, in this moment of the season, it's normal. We have to change, for sure, and I think the players did good work. They ran a lot on the pitch, but we have to play better. This is normal."