Hargreaves reveals dark days while injured

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The Independent Football

Owen Hargreaves has admitted there were times during his long fight for fitness that he wondered whether he would ever play again.

The Manchester United midfielder is expected to make another reserve-team appearance against Burnley at Accrington tonight, seven days after ending 18 frustrating months on the sidelines recovering from major surgery on both knees.

Deep down, Hargreaves remained optimistic he would ultimately return.

But the 29-year-old admits there were down times, when he questioned his entire career.

"It is only human to think that way," he admitted.

"The longest injury before that was when I broke my leg at Bayern Munich and I was out for a couple of months.

"Football is a physical game and injuries are part of it. But I could never imagine having one that has impacted on me so much.

"I thought - everyone thought - I would be fit for the start of the season. It didn't materialise.

"It has been a pretty humbling experience and I am sure many people doubted me, but anybody who knows me, knows that what I set my mind to, I get."

Renowned Colorado-based surgeon Dr Richard Steadman told the midfielder his knees were in a worse state than he had ever come across in 35 years of practicing.

And, although Hargreaves has reported a vast improvement, he still experiences discomfort and there is a chance he will never be fully clear of the problem.

"I wouldn't say I am pain free and I don't know if I can play through it," he said.

"My training has improved over the last weeks and that is a very positive sign for me. I believe that it will continue to improve and progress.

"But I am still in the process of getting some injections to try to manage the pain because if I didn't have any I would have played at the beginning of the season."

Judging by Sir Alex Ferguson's forthright reaction to talk of Hargreaves making England's World Cup squad, the latter statement may not be totally accurate.

Hargreaves does have a plan though, and it goes way beyond tomorrow night's reserve game, returning to the first-team, or even going to South Africa this summer.

He wants to be the player that brought him to United's attention in the first place.

"I had better get there," he said.

"I am not coming back to just be one of the guys and fill a spot.

"I have never been that way and, if that was case, I would rather walk away.

"I am coming back to have an impact."