Football Friends Online – When 90 Mins Is Not EnoughMichael Owen – The Future - Football Friends Online - When 90 Mins Is Not Enough Michael Owen – The Future - Football Friends Online - When 90 Mins Is Not Enough

Michael Owen – The Future

On Wednesday night Michael Owen starred for Manchester United for the first time in the 2011-2012 season, scoring two goals in a 3 – 0 win away from home against Leeds in the Carling Cup third round. Michael’s performance oozed the kind of natural goal scoring ability that made him such a household name in English football and in turn he was presented with the man of the match award for his efforts. The United side out on show at Elland Road on Wednesday was not the north-west club’s first eleven, not by a long stretch of the imagination. Instead it was a line-up of reserve and young players, while the big guns were being rested for the Premier League fixture against Stoke at the weekend. Michael was the star of the show in the second string line-up Sir Alex picked mid-week and the performance has allowed for interesting questions to be raised about what has happened to Michael Owen? And what does the future have in store for the once England international number 10?

The goals scored by Owen on Wednesday night gave us a glimpse of a player we have not had the pleasure of seeing in a rather long time. The instinctive classy finishes from Owen were a shock to many and were a reminder that Michael Owen still exists. The Chester born striker has slid off the footballing map in recent years, and the one time headline maker barely gets to step foot in a competitive match for Manchester United, but the performance on Wednesday proved he can still do the business in front of goal. Title holders United have players of real pedigree in forward areas, with arguably the player in the best form in the Premier League, Wayne Rooney, filling the places alongside Javier Hernandez, Dimitar Berbatov and Danny Welbeck. All the players mentioned are ahead of Owen in Sir Alex’s pecking order and Michael Owen only gets a look in during cup games of little significance or as a substitute for an injured player. Despite rarely donning the United red in a competitive arena, Owen still manages to find the net when picked. It begs the question, is Owen’s talent being wasted on the bench at Manchester United?

Players of Owen’s mould are rare to find in the modern game. The poaching expertise that Owen possesses is a rarity these days, one only has to look at Fernando Torres’ miss for Chelsea at the weekend; a chance that Michael would have tucked away without thinking. Owen’s ambitions to play at one of the world’s best and most successful clubs is understandable and all players aim in their career to lift trophies, which United do on a frequent basis. However, the real ambition of a footballer should be to play consistently, and with only 30 games in nearly three years at Manchester United, Owen should be reassessing his career. Owen’s aspirations to break into United’s first team look incredibly unlikely in the near future, unless the plague spreads across Old Trafford and takes out Rooney, Hernandez, Welbeck and Berbatov next week. Instead, Michael should be looking to pastures new, to reinvent his career.

Some can be mistaken for thinking Owen is closer to 40 than 30, as he has been around for what seems like eternity. It was over 13 years ago that Owen was in his prime at Liverpool. In the 1997-1998 season he was crowned PFA Young Player of the Year and ended up joined top goals scorer in the Premier League. Similarly in 1998 Owen gained the title as the youngster ever player for England in the 20th century and repaid the faith put in him by Glenn Hoddle, by playing a pivotal part in England’s 1998 World Cup campaign in France, scoring one of England’s most memorable goals against Argentina. The achievements of the late 90s seem a long, long time ago in 2011, but Michael is still only 31. If you scan the various Premier League squads, you will notice the likes of Nicholas Anelka and Didier Drogba, some of the Premier League’s top strikers, are older than Michael. So there is still time for Michael to reinvent his career, but he has to show a kind of ambition which may mean a step down from such a high profile club.

If Michael persists to stay at Manchester United, the talent he possesses will be wasted and only be on show every blue moon or during training. Michael needs to look for a move to a lower level Premier League club, where he will find his name in the starting eleven every week and where he will be the focal point of a manager’s squad. With a performance like the one on Wednesday night there would certainly be a lot of takers for the experienced striker. The big issue for Michael and potential investors, is Owen’s fitness. A persistent stretch of injuries has forced Michael into the position he is in now, and had those injuries not occurred, we may still be speaking of Owen in the same breath as Wayne Rooney, Robin Van Persie or Sergio Aguero. One only has to look at Kevin Philips and the success he has gained by taking a step down to Blackpool this summer. Owen should take note of the move Philips has taken, as Kevin is now one of the hottest finishers in the Championship for Holloway’s seasiders. Owen has been one of the most exiting young talents of our generation and one of the most impressive natural born finishers to ever play for England, but now it is time to make a decision in his career. You never know, if his fitness keeps and he decides to take the necessary move to a club where he will feature regularly, Fabio Capello may come knocking to find a striker partner for Wayne Rooney on the international stage Owen has worked so brilliantly on before.

David P Harrison

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