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The Odd Couple: Will it work out for Manchester United and Michael Owen?



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Four weeks ago, I was playing Football Manager. I was managing Manchester United and was faced with the dilemma of how to replace Tevez and Ronaldo. With 80 million quid in the bank, money wasn’t an issue; however the question of bringing in the “right” player involves more than just money.

Browsing through my shortlist, the expected names appeared: Benzema, Ribery and Ibrahimovic. All of a sudden a crazy thought popped into my head. Why not look at Micheal Owen? Unquestionably talented, excellent goal scoring record, English and above all free! I entertained the thought for a mere split second before quickly laughing it off, after all we all know Michael Owen is finished.

Cue 1 July and the Daily Mail breaks a story that Michael Owen is in discussions with Fergie! Would he gamble where I had dared not? A few days later we would learn that the answer was yes!

Now that Michael Owen is officially a Manchester United player, we find ourselves moving on from the question of ‘Could it happen?’ to ‘Will it work?’

The answer to the question really has two components. First, will he stay fit? Let’s assume that Michael’s injury troubles are past him and move onto the second question. Does Michael fit our system?

The press has focused on the rekindling of the Rooney – Owen partnership that had started so brightly for England. Indeed at Euro 2004 it looked at one stage to be capable of propelling England to glory until an untimely broken foot cut short Wayne’s tournament. I think it’s fair to say that despite a reasonable return, the partnership never really lived up to it’s initial promise. Could that promise finally be fulfilled at Old Trafford?

Personally I have my doubts. My main concern is that Wayne and Michael are quite similar players now. Gone are the days where Michael’s pace saw him consistently on the shoulder of the last defender. His best performances in a Newcastle shirt was when Keegan utilised him just behind the front two strikers. Therein lies the problem, that is Wayne’s preferred position, one which he has been quite vocal about wanting to focus on after a season of playing wide left.

As a result I really don’t think you’ll see Wayne and Michael together all that often this season. Which brings us to Dimitar Berbatov.

It’s no secret that Dimi failed to impress last season. Despite flashes of brilliance and an uncanny ability to retain possession in the face of immense pressure, he constantly seemed to be out of position. What good is holding the ball up and threading a brilliant pass to a winger, when there is nobody in the box to finish off the chance?

It’s that very style of play though which makes me believe that Michael can forge a strong partnership with Dimi. Where as last season there was nobody to finish the chances Dimi’s link up play created, this season we have the quintessential goal poacher in Michael Owen salivating at exactly those kind of chances!

Of course it’s not just Owen that will capitalise from Berbatov’s hold up play. Rooney has shown for England that if he is allowed to get into dangerous positions he is more than capable of finishing chances.

If United go back to a traditional 4-4-2 system as expected then Dimi’s link up play coupled with Michael and Wayne’s predatory instincts will become crucial to United’s chances of retaining the league.

So whilst England supporters will be hoping Owen’s move will allow him to strike up a ‘World Cup winning’ partnership with Rooney, a more likely situation is Owen and Rooney rotating to take advantage of Berbatov’s link up play with the likes of Nani and Valencia.

Micheal Owen to Manchester United, as unlikely as it may have seemed two weeks ago by the end of the season we might just be asking the question, why didn’t it happen sooner? Providing of course he can stay fit!

Welcome to Old Trafford Michael.