Michael Owen signs new deal at Manchester United

Sir Alex Ferguson has sprung a major surprise by handing Michael Owen a one-year contract extension.

Owen's present two-season deal was about to expire and, having been overshadowed by Javier Hernandez last season and knowing new signings were expected - in addition to the return of Danny Welbeck from Sunderland, it was anticipated the former England striker would be released.

However, Ferguson evidently still views the 31-year-old as an important member of his squad.

"Michael has proved to be a top footballer," said Ferguson.

"It is unfortunate that he did not get more opportunities but the form of Chicharito (Hernandez) put everyone in the shade and his partnership with Rooney proved invaluable.

"I am delighted Michael is staying for a further year and we will look to give him more opportunities in the new season."

The last of Owen's two league goals closed a record 19th title-winning campaign for the Red Devils, and earned him a championship medal for the first time.

It was also enough to earn him a place on the bench ahead of Dimitar Berbatov for Saturday's Champions League final, although he did not play a part in United's 3-1 defeat.

"I am delighted to have agreed a one-year extension to my contract," said Owen.

"To play alongside so many great players, under an exceptional manager, and in front of so many passionate supporters is a real inspiration.

"I can't wait for next season to start."

The news casts an even greater shadow over Berbatov's United career, though.

The Bulgarian was tight-lipped when he returned home yesterday but it is difficult to see what role he could play unless Ferguson opts to unload Welbeck, who gained his first England cap against Ghana in March.

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