Owen 'will gain a new lease of life'

Rooney lauds new arrival but regrets departure of Tevez and Ronaldo

Football loves what-ifs and here is one of the most intriguing when it comes to why England never win World Cups. In November 2005, in one of the few friendlies Sven-Goran Eriksson ever took seriously, Michael Owen and Wayne Rooney snatched a 3-2 victory from Argentina in the unlikely surroundings of Geneva.

The World Cup was months away and Rooney and Owen were a natural strike force – England had won 14 of the 17 competitive internationals the two had started. A month later, Owen broke his foot and in April so did Rooney. Neither should have gone to Germany, where they managed four minutes together before, in Cologne, Owen broke down again. They were to play together only three more times, and two of those three were lost – the European Championship qualifier in Moscow disastrously so.

They did not actually share the same pitch in Manchester United's 3-2 victory over Malaysia in the draining, aching humidity of Kuala Lumpur – Owen came on to replace his fellow boyhood Everton fan. But both of them scored and this season they might present a glimpse of what was lost to England.

"I didn't have any idea he was going to sign but we are delighted as a team to get him," said Rooney. "He is a great goalscorer and a good finisher and I think the move will give him a new lease of life. Over the last couple of years he has had some criticism but, to be honest, it would have been difficult for any player to score in that Newcastle team.

"I have played with Michael that many times for England, so I know him well. He has looked really sharp in training and is working very hard. You could see by the way all the lads celebrated how pleased they were for him when he scored."

It may have been a friendly, it may have been against a side ranked 157th in the world – one place below the Maldives. But it was Owen's first since scoring in the rather chillier surroundings, in terms of audience and temperature, of St James' Park in January.

Rooney tore into the game as if oblivious to the heat; he knows no other way to perform. And afterwards, he recognised that with the departure from Old Trafford of £100m worth of footballers, in the form of Cristiano Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez, these are standards he will have to demand of himself for the next 11 months.

Rooney liked both men. He would juggle balls with Ronaldo in the Old Trafford dressing rooms before kick-off and with Tevez would swap English swearwords for Spanish ones. But he recognises that Manchester United will miss the 41 goals they scored last season more than he will miss their company.

"Cristiano leaving has left a huge hole when it comes to goals and that is why it is important that me and Dimitar Berbatov especially score more goals than we did last year. But they will be missed. I have spoken to Cristiano since he left. He was a great player for Manchester United but it was his wish to go and I think the club have respected that.

"We don't feel let down by him. We always knew he was going to go sometime and for the club and for himself it was a good deal. The six years we got out of him were brilliant."

However, Tevez's refusal to sign a new contract or Manchester United's reluctance to offer him one – depending if you believe the Argentine – is a subject Rooney was less willing to discuss. "He was a great lad and it was a shame it never got sorted out," he said. "I am sure a lot of people will have a lot to say about him joining Manchester City but I don't want to say too much about it."

One subject Rooney was keen to elaborate on is where he plays. Sir Alex Ferguson began last season by confessing that Rooney had not been handled well tactically. Too often, because of his enthusiasm for the ball or because he was asked to plug a gap, Rooney found himself on the flanks, which is where he spent most of a European Cup final that appeared to pass him by as much as it did most other United players.

"We haven't spoken about it but I am sure I will play through the middle this time," Rooney said. "Everyone knows it is my best position and I enjoy it far more than being out on the flanks. It is less work and you get more chances to score. As a forward, that's what you want."

News
A model of a Neanderthal man on display at the National Museum of Prehistory in Dordogne, France
science
News
Richard Dawkins dedicated his book 'The Greatest Show on Earth' to Josh Timonen
newsThat's Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome
Arts and Entertainment
Eye of the beholder? 'Concrete lasagne' Preston bus station
architectureWhich monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?
Extras
indybest
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
Dinosaurs Unleashed at the Eden Project
travel
Arts and Entertainment
music
Sport
football
Life and Style
This month marks the 20th anniversary of the first online sale
techDespite a host of other online auction sites and fierce competition from Amazon, eBay is still the most popular e-commerce site in the UK
News
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home