Owen is the predator we need, says Giggs
Ferguson's 'punt' looks to be paying off as striker continues to score goals
Tuesday 28 July 2009
When he stepped out of the tunnel and walked towards the team bus, the noise struck in one great wave. The Chinese have difficulty in pronouncing Ryan Giggs' name – it comes out as 'Lion Gigger'. They have no difficulty with Michael Owen and now it filled the night sky.
Pre-seasons are important for all footballers but of those who travelled with Manchester United to Asia, none had more at stake than the 29-year-old who but for injury and some dubious career decisions would already be England's leading goalscorer.
Thus far, it has all gone swimmingly. On arrival in Kuala Lumpur he gave a major interview which explained why he had allowed his form and morale to be dragged down at Newcastle and then got about the business of scoring goals. By the time he had boarded the bus for the long flight to Munich, after an 8-2 demolition of Hangzhou Greentown, he had averaged four in four games.
The opposition may have been modest but Owen might have reflected that, had he remained at St James' Park, he would by now be digesting the implications of a 6-1 defeat by Leyton Orient.
"He offers us something that we haven't got," said Giggs. "Michael is the predator of the kind Manchester United used to have over the years, in Ruud van Nistelrooy, Andy Cole and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. And with Cristiano Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez going, we need goals.
"We create a lot of chances at Manchester United and the thing that has always struck me about Michael is that, if he misses them, it doesn't bother him, whereas some players withdraw into their shell the moment they miss. Ruud had that mentality; all great goalscorers have it. They know they will get another chance.
"After leaving Newcastle with all their troubles, United have given him a new lease of life because he is coming into a side that will create chances and, if he starts scoring for Manchester United, the rest will come." The next few friendlies should give a clearer idea of whether the move that Sir Alex Ferguson described as "a punt" but which the club's chief executive, David Gill, said had been in the offing for a year, will work. This week's Audi Cup, where United will play Boca Juniors followed by either Milan or Bayern Munich, comes before a home game with Valencia on 5 August and the Community Shield against Chelsea.
If Owen manages four goals from that lot, then even the England manager, Fabio Capello, who has not selected the striker since the 1-0 defeat by France last year, might have to take notice. Overtaking Sir Bobby Charlton's record of 49 international goals, a feat that once seemed a formality, could just be back on again.
"People have put a big question mark over him ever doing it," said the former England captain, Bryan Robson. "But Michael has always been top drawer and he knows what he is doing around the box. For me, this is a great challenge for him because he is now alongside some great players who will create chances for him. It's a great opportunity for him to get back into the England side.
"You have to look beyond the last two years he has had at Newcastle. If Michael Owen is really fit and you rotate the squad like Sir Alex Ferguson does, then that is perfect for Michael. You know that if he plays, his record suggests he will score one in two. I look beyond that. I think Michael will do really well with Manchester United but I also think he will succeed in the World Cup finals. You have to remember that five years ago everyone was raving about the combination of Wayne Rooney and Owen.
"Newcastle did not suit Michael's game. He had to keep coming back to the halfway line to find the ball but Manchester United will tend to have more possession than most teams they play against. They will be on the front foot and Michael will be in areas where he thrives, where he can lose defenders with his timing and intelligence. It could be a great move."
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