Michael Owen is determined not to burn bridges with Fabio Capello and is expected to take up the England manager's invitation to be at Wembley tomorrow night along with as many as 54 other players called up to his squads over the past 23 months.
Owen received his invitation by text message last week and though the Football Association, which has put in place arrangements which will see the players gather in the dressing room after the last of the Group Six qualification games, has been at pains to point out that attendance is not compulsory, Owen has resolved to go. It means that after the events of England's final qualifier are concluded, he will place himself in an arena Capello has removed him from since the 1-0 friendly defeat in Paris in March 2008.
Wayne Rooney's withdrawal from the squad which is preparing for that game illustrates the way that injuries can open doors, though the calf problem the FA reported on Sunday evening that he had been suffering does not appear to be serious. Rooney is expected to play a part in the home match against Bolton Wanderers on Saturday. United said yesterday that he would be training this week and would be assessed after Ferguson's return from holiday in the United States today.
After the workload Rooney put in on Saturday night in Ukraine's Dnipro Arena, it is convenient for player and club that he has been able to return to Manchester. He needed the break after his exertions in a 10-man team and his long trip to Ukraine, and he may well sit out United's visit to CSKA Moscow in the Champions League if he does play on Saturday. He has already hinted that the impending birth of his first child might curtail his trip to Russia, Ferguson will also have the defining trip to Anfield, on Sunday week, at the front of his mind.
The United goalkeeper Edwin Van der Sar has said Ben Foster has the strength of character to overcome his struggle with form, but he is still determined to oust him from the starting line up against Bolton. "I want my place back," he said. "Playing in the reserves last Tuesday was an ideal moment for me to get a game under my belt before the Premier League begins again after the international break. I needed a game."
Capello's thank you: The 55 players
Fabio Capello has invited 55 players to Wembley tomorrow to celebrate England's World Cup qualification. The criteria is that a player must have been called up and reported for a squad for any one of Capello's 19 games in charge. They do not need to have won a cap.
Asterisk denotes in current squad
*Goalkeepers D James (Portsmouth)*; R Green (West Ham)*; J Hart (Birmingham, on loan from Manchester City)*; B Foster (Manchester United)*; S Carson (West Bromwich Albion); C Kirkland (Wigan); P Robinson (Blackburn); J Lewis (Peterborough) Eight
*Defenders J Terry (Chelsea) *; W Bridge (Man City)*; A Cole (Chel)*; R Ferdinand (Man Utd)*; W Brown (Man Utd)*; G Cahill (Bolton)*; M Upson (West Ham)*; G Johnson (Liverpool)*; J Lescott (Man City); M Richards (Man City); J Woodgate (Tot); L King (Tot); D Wheater (Middlesbrough); P Jagielka (Everton); S Warnock (Aston Villa); L Baines (Ever); C Davies (AV); M Mancienne (Wolves, on loan from Chelsea); L Young (AV); G Neville (Man Utd). 20
*Midfielders S Gerrard (Liv)*; G Barry (Man City)*; F Lampard (Chels)*; S Wright-Phillips (Man City)*; M Carrick (Man Utd)*; D Beckham (LA Galaxy)*; J Milner (AV)*; A Lennon (Tot)*; O Hargreaves (Man Utd); J Cole (Chels); J Jenas (Tot); A Young (AV); S Downing (AV); D Bentley (Tot); T Walcott (Ars); T Huddlestone (Tot); J Bullard (Hull City); S Parker (WH) 18
*Forwards G Agbonlahor (AV)*; P Crouch (Tot)*; E Heskey (AV)*; C Cole (WH)*; M Owen (Man Utd); W Rooney (Man Utd); J Defoe (Tot); D Bent (Sund); D Ashton (WH) 9.Reuse content