Owen ready for Champions League hurrah

Published May 25, 2011 11:30am

Manchester United's English forward Michael Owen beats Juventus Italian midfielder Alberto Aquilani during a testimonial football match between Manchester United and Juventus for Manchester United's Gary Neville at Old Trafford in Manchester, north west England, on May 24. - AFP Photo

MANCHESTER: Michael Owen announced his arrival on the world stage with a memorable solo strike at the 1998 World Cup.

Now the Manchester United striker is hoping that “the one big goal” he may yet conjure up this season will arrive against Barcelona at Wembley.

Thirteen years have passed since the 18-year-old Owen carved his way through Argentina's defence before finishing with a composure that belied his age.

The passage of time and a cruel injury record have long since stripped Owen of the electrifying speed which once terrorised Argentina, but the 31-year-old showed his finisher's instincts remained sharp when he came on to score United's fourth in the 4-2 win over Blackpool at the weekend.

While Owen will not start against Barcelona, the former Liverpool and England striker is hopeful that he could have a role to play if called upon.

Owen remains realistic about the possibility of book-ending his wonder-goal in St-Etienne with another similarly important strike on Saturday.

“I'd love it to be. But I've got to get on the bench first before I can get on the pitch,” Owen told reporters at United's training complex.

“It's such a good squad here so we'll see. But if I was on the bench and I was brought on that would obviously be what I want to do.”

Since being sold by Liverpool to Real Madrid in 2004, Owen's career has been savaged by a series of debilitating injuries, most notably the anterior cruciate ligament rupture sustained during the 2006 World Cup.

That injury left him sidelined for nearly a year, and was the main contributing factor to an unhappy four-year spell at Newcastle United where he was restricted to only 71 appearances.

When Owen's management company circulated a glossy promotional brochure extolling the striker's many virtues in the summer of 2009, it served only to highlight just how far the striker's stock had fallen.

Owen was reported to have favoured a return to his former club Liverpool, but with then manager Rafael Benitez harbouring doubts about the striker's form and fitness, United manager Sir Alex Ferguson moved quickly.

Although Owen has remained largely a bit-part player since arriving at Old Trafford, firmly down the pecking order behind Javier Hernandez and Dimitar Berbatov, he remains philosophical about his role in the squad.

On Sunday Owen picked up the first Premier League winners' medal of his career, and he is ever hopeful that he may yet add a Champions League winners medal to his trophy cabinet.

And Owen has a typically direct response to suggestions that he may be frustrated by the limited playing opportunities on offer at United.

“If I was at a smaller club I'd never be in any big games would I?” he said. “At least being at a big club I've got a chance of being in them. So there's two sides to every coin.”


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