Owen close to shock Man Utd move

Michael Owen could not stop Newcastle from being relegated from the Premier League
Owen’s Newcastle career was plagued by injury

Manchester United are in talks to sign former Liverpool and Newcastle striker Michael Owen, BBC Sport understands.

The 29-year-old, who is out of contract at Newcastle, did not return for pre-season training after his deal with the Magpies ran out in June.

Owen has been linked with Everton, Aston Villa, Stoke and Hull but now looks set to sign for the Old Trafford club, pending a medical on Friday.

“We don’t comment on transfer rumours,” a Red Devils spokesman told BBC Sport.

Owen has been plagued by injuries in recent seasons, suffering with groin, ankle, thigh, hernia, metatarsal and knee ligament problems.

The 2001 European footballer of the year and former Real Madrid striker has dropped out of the England squad, but a potential move to the Premier League champions would give Owen the chance to revitalise his career.

“Sources close to the player have suggested to me that a medical will take place on Friday,” BBC Radio 5 Live’s Juliette Ferrington reported from Manchester.

I just question the injury scenario
Blackburn manager Sam Allardyce

“He has already completed one test on his knee and should he come through Friday’s test he’ll sign on a free transfer.

“Contract talks continued late into the night. It would represent a major turnaround for the England striker who has been hampered by injury problems.

“Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson has been a long time admirer of Michael Owen and it looks like he has made his move.”

Since losing the Champions League final to Barcelona at the end of May, the Premier League holders have sold forward Cristiano Ronaldo to Real Madrid for £80m and failed to persuade striker Carlos Tevez to stay at Old Trafford.

The departure of those two players has left United manager Sir Alex Ferguson with a shortage of strikers, with Frazier Campbell also likely to be sold.

However, Ferguson did bring in winger Antonio Valencia from Wigan on Tuesday.

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United were also linked with Lyon striker Karim Benzema, who is set to join Real, while Bayern Munich forward Franck Ribery has been linked with a move to the Madrid club rather than the English champions.

Owen made 79 appearances for the Magpies and scored 30 goals in four seasons at St James’ Park.

But an ankle injury and groin operation severely disrupted his final year at the club, with the last of his 10 league goals for the 2008-09 campaign coming against West Ham on 10 January.

If Ferguson does capture Owen, it would be reminiscent of his willingness to take a chance on players like the enigmatic Eric Cantona or stars that have suffered serious injury problems like Henrik Larsson.

“United have definitely made a move,” said Pete Spencer, sports editor of the Manchester Evening News. “It is a bold move. It could put them at risk of the fans mocking them because they’ve missed out on Benzema and Ribery.

“Owen will have a lot to do make sure that he overcomes the natural hatred between Manchester United and Liverpool, although he has been at Newcastle for some time.

“United manager Sir Alex Ferguson has a record of older players doing well at United and if Owen has got anything like the pace he had before then he should be a hit. Who’s to argue with Sir Alex Ferguson?”

Even so, the move for Owen represents something of a gamble for Ferguson, given Blackburn manager Sam Allardyce ruled out a move for the striker earlier this week given his injury history.

“I just question the injury scenario,” said Allardyce.

“I need a striker that’s going to be available for 30 games next season. That’s not happened for Michael over the last four years.”

After Newcastle were relegated to the Championship, Owen expressed his desire to remain in the Premier League.

OWEN FACTFILE
LIVERPOOL (Trainee – August 2004) 297 games, 158 goals
REAL MADRID (August 2004 – August 2005) 40 games, 14 goals
NEWCASTLE (August 2005 – July 2009) 79 games, 30 goals

The Wasserman Media Group (WMG), the management company that represents him, sent out a brochure to a number of clubs reminding them of the talent that resulted in the striker scoring 158 goals in 297 games for Liverpool and 40 goals in 89 appearances for England.

Owen’s exploits in helping Liverpool to victory in the FA Cup, Uefa Cup and League Cup in the 2000/2001 season led to his European footballer of the Year award in December 2001.

He was widely reported to be earning more than £100,000-a-week at Newcastle after signing a four-year deal when he moved from Real Madrid in August 2005 for a club record fee of £16m, though his wages are unlikely to be a problem for Manchester United.

If Owen does move to Old Trafford it would revive the former Liverpool striker’s hopes of resurrecting his international hopes and taking part in the 2010 World Cup.

Owen has been marginalised by England manager Fabio Capello and has won just one cap under the Italian, as a substitute in the 1-0 friendly defeat by France in Paris on 26 March, 2008.

United, meanwhile, have sent 20-year-old Brazilian-born midfielder Rodrigo Possebon on a season-long loan to Portuguese side Braga.

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