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Owen insists he's still England material

Michael Owen insists he remains as good a player as he was when he was England's leading striker.

The 29-year-old, who moved to Manchester United in the summer, has struggled to get a look-in under current England boss Fabio Capello.

But the former Newcastle player - whose career highlights in an England shirt include the game in Munich in 2001 when his hat-trick sunk Germany - still believes he is good enough to claim a place in the Italian's squad for next summer's World Cup in South Africa.

"I am not slower now than I was seven, eight years ago. No chance," said Owen in an interview with The Times.

"With the hamstring problems early in my career, they knocked a yard off my pace straightaway, but since then I have been the same player and if anything I have improved.

"Game awareness is a good word for it. A lot of it is so instinctive it's hard to put down. It is your experience taking you into areas. You think, 'Would I have moved there as a kid, would I have anticipated that?'

"People think I'm past my thirties, I'm in my forties, the way they talk about me. I'm only 29. I'm not past it.

"It's not an easy squad to get into with the results the team are getting at the minute. But I'm as passionate as ever about extending my time with England."

Owen admits being continually left out of the England squad is hard to take after 40 goals in 89 caps.

He added: "Capello has never talked to me about the situation. I met him after the Community Shield. I was getting on to the coach. He was coming down to get in his car to leave. He was there with Franco Baldini.

"Franco saw me and gave me the thumbs up. I walked over and shook both of their hands.

"Franco said, 'How are you? Are you feeling fit?' I said, 'Yeah, yeah, I'm feeling fine.' 'Good luck, we'll keep watching you.' That's the only contact."

England have already booked their place in South Africa next summer with two qualifiers to spare and he feels they are good enough to win the competition.

He told the Daily Telegraph: "The way we are playing at the minute, we have a cracking chance of winning the World Cup."

"But football is like chess nowadays: one slip, it's stalemate and, 'right, who's the best at penalties?' You might just have to beat Spain or Brazil on penalties and you have won the World Cup."

Owen's switch from relegated Newcastle to the champions was one of the more surprising transfers of the summer.

The former Real Madrid striker revealed ex-Newcastle team-mate Nicky Butt, who spent more than 10 years at Old Trafford before joining the Magpies, tipped him off about Manchester United's interest.

He was, Owen revealed, Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson's second-choice after failing to sign France's Karim Benzema, who instead moved to Madrid from Lyon.

Owen explained: "Nicky said: 'Don't tell anyone I've called you, especially not the manager, but he was asking about you, how you are training. So just to put you on your toes in case he does call."'

He added: "He (Ferguson) said: 'We are looking for a striker. Carlos (Tevez) is leaving. We went for Benzema and once that was a no-go we looked around for players who are going to score goals. Obviously the big question is if you are fit - then it's a no-brainer."'