Owen move sparked by Benzema's Real deal

Madrid's transfer market dominance forced United to offer striker shock contract
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The Independent Football

Michael Owen revealed yesterday that Sir Alex Ferguson moved to sign him on Wednesday afternoon as the Manchester United manager realised that Karim Benzema was joining Real Madrid. Only once Ferguson had been forced to admit defeat to Madrid's remarkable financial powers for the second time this summer did he turn to the former Liverpool striker.

Owen said that he was called personally by Ferguson on Wednesday and invited to have breakfast with him on Thursday morning when he was invited to sign. Owen said: "I had just begun to talk to other clubs when out of the blue Sir Alex phoned me on Wednesday afternoon, invited me to have breakfast with him next morning during which he told me that he wanted to sign me. I agreed without a moment's thought. This is a fantastic opportunity for me and I intend to seize it with both hands."

The former England striker said that never in his "wildest dreams" did he expect to get the call from Ferguson which, after a conversation with the United manager ended in him agreeing a two-year deal yesterday. He has a basic salary of around £30,000-a-week, a big cut from his £108,000-a-week deal at Newcastle, and then a bonus system in which he is paid for goals and appearances. There will also be a supplement paid by Newcastle for this month alone.

Ferguson was one of the recipients of the digital brochure emailed to selected clubs by Owen's representatives Wasserman Group (WMG) around 12 June but it was not until the United manager learnt that he was out of the running for the former Lyons striker Benzema that he moved. With Cristiano Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez already gone, Ferguson told his chief executive David Gill on Wednesday that they should move for Owen.

Sources close to the deal said that Ferguson had been considering Owen before he left for his summer holiday. Prior to Wednesday, Owen and WMG had been prepared to spend at least a month weighing up offers from different clubs, even entertaining the possibility that they might have had to wait until the end of the transfer window for the likes of Aston Villa and Everton to present an offer.

Ferguson, whose only other signing this summer has been the £15.25m spent on Wigan's Antonio Valencia, said: "Michael is a world-class forward with a proven goalscoring record at the highest level and that has never been in question. Coming to Manchester United with the expectations that we have is something that Michael will relish."

Owen admitted yesterday that it had been a "shock" when Ferguson called him "It feels great," Owen said. "When I got the call from the manager to come to meet him it was a shock but I am obviously really happy. We just talked about football really and the pros and cons of signing myself and thankfully there were more pros than cons. I left my agent with David Gill and they got the deal done."

Owen hinted that he had informal contact with Ferguson over the last few years – the United manager tried to sign him two years ago through a release clause in his Newcastle deal. "He [Ferguson] always spoke to players and I had an idea that he still thought I had something," Owen told MUTV. "I was clinging to that hope that he would want me to play for him one day.

"I had a poor spell at Newcastle but prior to that my career was very good and I am sure that at a top club like this I can reignite my career. I am sure I can score goals and be successful. It would be lovely [to be welcomed by the fans] but I'm not silly, I know there will be a few people saying the manager shouldn't have signed me.

"That gradually goes over time and as soon as the first game kicks off I can do my talking on the pitch. I am really looking forward to pre-season and once the season starts, I want to start with a bang. They are a fantastic team, right through the squad, that's why they have won so much in their careers. Hopefully I can jump on the bandwagon and score a few goals and be successful.

"I missed pre-season last year and I am pleased I will be starting at Carrington [United's training ground] from day one," said Owen. "I am now looking forward to being a United player. I am fortunate I already know so many of the players here."

Having completed a medical examination yesterday, Owen said that despite his injury problems over the last three years, he never had any doubt he would pass the medical. "I would like to think everyone was surprised at how good my medical was," he said. "I knew I would pass, I have passed them before. My fitness is fine.

"A lot is made of it and a lot will be said in the future but I don't feel I am injury-prone. I had a lot of injuries at Newcastle but there would have been a lot of people who would have got injured if they had someone jumping on their foot. I could name half a dozen players at United who have broken their metatarsal. I had injuries subsequently because I didn't get the first one right.

"I'm 29 and I have played 500 plus games at the highest level. If you play that many games you can't be on the treatment table all the time."

United, as well as Chelsea, still hold out a faint hope of signing the Frenchman Franck Ribéry but the likelihood is that he too will sign for Madrid if the Spanish club can find the funds after a remarkable spending spree. United are more likely to look at the Chile international Alexis Sanchez, currently at Udinese.

Owen Opinions: What fans are saying

The Liverpool reaction

The view from www.lfcreds.com

"Just lost his legendary status at Anfield with this move" Kenny

"I'm laughing now but it'll hurt seeing him in their shirt" nnilswerdna

"Hope he has the same effect as [he did] on another United" RedLFCBlood

*The United reaction

The view from www.manutdtalk.com

"The fact we are getting him on a free is the clincher for me. What have we got to lose?" Jazz

"Fact is, Owen isn't the player he was eight years ago" GeordieMancunian

*The Newcastle reaction

The view from www.toontastic.net

"Although I don't want to see it, I still think Owen will score goals in a good team" Sniffer

"I don't care whether he will score two or 20 goals next season – we've got far bigger matters to worry about" KingKev

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