Owen completes switch to Man Utd
Michael Owen has completed his surprise move to Manchester United after the free agent signed a two-year deal with the Premier League champions.
The 29-year-old ex-Liverpool and Real Madrid striker’s contract with Newcastle ended earlier this week.
“Michael is a world-class forward with a proven goalscoring record at the highest level,” said United boss Sir Alex Ferguson.
Owen had also been linked with Everton, Aston Villa, Stoke and Hull.
But instead he becomes United’s second summer signing after the recent addition of Antonio Valencia from Wigan.
“Coming to Manchester United with the expectations that we have is something that Michael will relish,” added Ferguson.
ENGLAND 89 games, 40 goals
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
Owen said United’s interest in him came as a surprise, adding: “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.
“I am now looking forward to being a Manchester United player and I am fortunate that I already know so many of the players here.
“I missed pre-season last year and am pleased that I will be starting from day one.
“I want to thank Sir Alex for the faith he has shown in me and I give him my assurance that I will repay him with my goals and performances.”
Owen had checks on an old knee injury in London on Thursday before undergoing a full medical at the private Bridgewater Hospital in Manchester on Friday.
He 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 has dropped out of the England squad, but a move to United gives Owen the chance to revitalise his career, even if it involved accepting a lower basic salary.
It was reported by the Press Association that Ferguson has struck a pay-as-you-play deal, with the player also taking a significant salary cut from the £110,000-a-week wages he was said to be on at St James’ Park.
Ferguson has been a long time admirer of Michael Owen and has decided to gamble on the striker who has proven himself a prolific scorer at both club and international level when fit.
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Since losing the Champions League final to Barcelona at the end of May, Manchester United 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 Fraizer Campbell also likely to be sold.
United have been 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.
Ferguson has previously shown his willingness to take a chance on players like the enigmatic Eric Cantona or stars that have suffered serious injury problems like Henrik Larsson.
Pete Spencer, sports editor of the Manchester Evening News, said: “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.
Owen (right) is already familiar with a number of Man Utd players
“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?”
And former Liverpool striker Ian Rush admitted he would have liked to have seen Owen return to Anfield, saying: “Personally, I’d like to have seen him at Liverpool but they haven’t lost their best strikers. Rafael Benitez will be happy with what he’s got.
“I know the way he is and he doesn’t have to prove anything anyway. It’s a chance for Michael to get back and score some goals. He’ll get chances for Manchester United and will score goals.”
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.
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, although his wage demands are unlikely to be a problem for Manchester United.
Owen’s move to Old Trafford could revive the former Liverpool striker’s hopes of resurrecting his international hopes and taking part in the 2010 World Cup.
He 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.