Let’s face it, Hernandez and Rooney are going to make up the first choice partnership for the start of the season, and who can blame Fergie for this? Most United fans would agree they are the stand out strikers in the squad especially with last season in mind.
Hernandez was on fire at the Gold Cup whilst Rooney has hit the goal trail in the States, last night scoring three goals as a second half substitute. Clearly younger players such as Macheda, Diouf and Welbeck will look to break into the squad and begin to establish themselves, with Marcheda looking sharp in pre-season and like the one who has the best chance of doing this.
But what about Michael Owen? Once winner of the Ballon d’or, and regarded as one of the top strikers in Europe, what has happened to the former goal scorer and is it possible for him to get back to anywhere near his best?
Fergie clearly thinks so, handing Owen a one year extension to his current deal, and giving him playing time during the last two games in America, with the promise of more to come. The faith shown by the manager looks like being repaid in part, with Owen scoring in both games, and looking sharper with each match. Of course it could be argued that he never really lost his ability to score goals, just his fitness, becoming highly injury prone and suffering long spells on the side lines.
After an illustrious spell at Liverpool, finishing top scorer on multiple occasions and winning highly prestigious awards, Owen decided on an ill-fated move to Real Madrid, where his time was blighted by injuries and lack of opportunities. Even so during the 2004/2005 season he was the player in La Liga that had the best goal to minutes on the field ratio, with 13 goals. After the signing of forwards Baptista and Robinho, Owen moved to Newcastle, a club that had issues both on and off the field.
His time was hampered by long-term injuries and both his form and general fitness were affected. After being embroiled in the now infamous ‘club verses country’ row in 2007 and another lengthy lay off, Owen came back to a Newcastle side that had lofty ambitions and expectations yet little in the squad or backroom to accomplish this. The decision to sack Sam Allardyce appeared ludicrous to all but Mike Ashley, and after Newcastle’s subsequent relegation Owen signed for United as a free agent in July 2009.
Being approached ‘out of the blue’ by Fergie and given the number 7 shirt to wear, Owen clearly had huge boots to fill, coming after a long line of United stars such as Robson, Cantona, Beckham and Ronaldo when wearing the much loved number 7 shirt. Again injuries have affected Owen on a huge scale, with several lengthy layoffs, but his time at Old Trafford has not been without its highlights, such as the goal to secure our 4 – 3 derby win against local rivals City in his debut season or scoring United’s equaliser in he Carling Cup final against Aston Villa.
Last season having just been picked out as a key part of the squad by the manager, Owen again had a spell on the side lines. He did manage to make enough appearances for a medal when we lifted the Premier League trophy, and was an unused substitute in the defeat to Barca last May – which is more than what Berbatov can point to.
Clearly Fergie has faith in the player, and the form that Owen has displayed thus far during pre-season does point to the fact that he is still a goal scorer, and whilst he may not be starting every game and playing every minute, there does seem to be life in him yet. A role as a ‘super sub’ is not one to be under estimated and if Owen does retain his current fitness and stay injury free, there is no reason why he cannot at least make a claim to a place on the bench and push for minutes on the pitch.
At the end of the day, goals win games and Owen can still score them.
His uncanny knack of scoring in derby’s may come in highly useful, and if a repeat of the goal against City was his only goal in the up and coming season, I would wager that most united fans would keep him on the books just for that!