Owen focuses on Manchester United rather than England

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The Independent Football

Michael Owen will go to bed tonight dreaming of scoring goals for Manchester United rather than reclaiming his England place.

Virtually from the moment he completed one of the summer's biggest transfer shocks by moving to Old Trafford following the end of an ill-fated four years at Newcastle, speculation has bubbled away about Owen's England exile.

Fabio Capello has described the debate as his "torment", which could either relate to internal indecision or irritation at the subject's refusal to be silenced.

Now, Owen has attempted to do the job himself, by insisting he is fully concentrated on his club career.

"England is something I don't really think about," he said.

"It is probably something people talk about a lot more than I think about really.

"The last squad I was in was over a year ago now. I have played for England 89 times and I would love to play for England again.

"But I am concentrating on playing for Manchester United. I genuinely go to bed thinking that I have got to play well the next day and win games for Manchester United, not that if I score or play well I might get picked for England."

Goals such as the effort he put away so smartly at Barnsley last week will go some way to proving he retains his old ability, in addition to pushing United further forward on all fronts.

Indeed, Owen might reflect that even if his international career ends at its present state; 89 games, 40 goals, three World Cups, it would be regarded as a success. An absence of either a Champions League medal or a Premier League title means the same cannot be said about his efforts at club level.

"One of the draws of coming to a club like Manchester United is that you are always competing at the top level," he said.

"There were many things that stuck in my mind when I was first asked to come and join the club but one of the big things was the chance to play on big Champions League nights and to play in top Premier League games.

"It has to be everyone's dream to play in games like that. It is difficult to win these competitions but it is obviously our aim to do it and it is exciting to be part of it."

While many United fans feel the jury is still out on whether Owen's arrival has been a success, the 29-year-old is delighted at the way things have gone for him.

He might disagree with the blanket assessment of his performances that effectively state he has done well when he scores and poorly when he does not, but the former Liverpool star claims to be unmoved at criticism of his form.

"I don't think it takes a goal for me to play well," he said.

"I was average against Barnsley but scored. I played really well against Bolton and didn't. It just didn't get reflected.

"But that is how my career has gone. It is strange, but I am not particularly bothered about it."

Undoubtedly, what Owen is bothered about are accusations that he is injury-prone.

To him, a broken metatarsal and ruptured cruciate ligament and various muscular ailments do not constitute grounds for such a tag.

"I get a bee in my bonnet about injuries," he said.

"When you talk about my career, I have two long-term injuries, that were linked probably.

"But they were not "injury-prone" injuries. It is the little niggly ones that you can probably manage and eradicate from your game."

Experience is also a factor.

Five weeks ago, when Owen went off barely 20 minutes into the win over Wolfsburg, it was largely assumed his groin problems had resurfaced.

In actual fact, all he had done was take preventative measures to guard against something far worse.

"The older you get, the more you learn about your body," he said.

"I came off before it was too late. If I had stayed on and done another sprint, maybe I would have done my groin and been out for a month.

"Fortunately I could feel what was happening, so I put my hand up and said I had to come off. I was back training four days later."