Sunday, 5 July 2009

United Gift Owen A Lifeline

Alex Ferguson, the sole architect behind United’s 23 year stretch of both domestic and European glory, has rarely been questioned for his signings, despite how much a flop they have turned out to be, but the recent arrival of Michael Owen has made many a critic and fan raise an eyebrow of concern. The ex England international - I say ex because he has only managed one cap under the newly appointed Capello regime and looks in no shape to feature again any time soon- has saw his career rapidly decline since the transfer back to our British soil, with an injury plagued stint at Newcastle United.

With the ‘Owen brochure’ doing the rounds a few weeks ago, it looked as if he would make do with the likes of Hull City or Everton at best, but when the great Scot asked to meet Owen for a spot of breakfast and offered the striker the chance to get his career back on track, how could he say no. It’s not like the 29 year old really needs the money, especially with the extortionate weekly pay check he was picking up at St James Park.

Nine out of 10 people have taken the negative approach to Owen making the surprise appearance at Old Trafford, but I, like the minority, think it might possibly be the bargain of the season -note bargain not signing. At the end of the day, Owen isn’t and never will be a replacement for the underrated Carlos Tevez, but a free transfer for an experienced player that just needs the confidence and a decent team around him who can actually play football, isn’t bad to say the least.

Fergie is expected to sign another striker before the new Premier League season commences, but a freebie is something nobody can turn down. He might not score 20 goals a season, in fact I bet on him not doing so, but I can guarantee he will turn out to be a surprise package for United. Once a predator, always a predator and Owen will surely rekindle that killer instinct we all know he has, under the influential Sir Alex Ferguson.

With the World Cup only a year away, it would be nice to think United’s coaching staff and medical team could get Owen in some kind of shape to play regular football and make an impression on the hard-to-please Capello, but that is still a pipedream at present. If anyone is more serious about quality within a team and the will to win games, United are at the front of the queue. It will be interesting to hear Capello’s opinion of the move.

At the end of the day, Owen will be a cheaper option than what Dimitar Berbatov turned out to be. I don’t expect Owen to be a starting option, until needed, and could possibly be seen as the fourth choice striker within the squad after Rooney, Berbatov and Welbeck. Ferguson likes to gamble with certain players, especially with the youth development that we have already witnessed during his time, but will this be his biggest gamble yet? Not at all, he doesn’t even have to play him or rely on him and with £60 million still left in the kitty from the sale of Ronaldo, Fergie has plenty of cash and time to bring in a suitable replacement for the United deportees this summer.

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Valencia the New Number 7?

With Cristiano Ronaldo Madrid bound, it seems Ferguson has found the perfect replacement to fill the boots of the winking Portuguese international. Instead of spending thousands to fly chief scouts around the world, living off expenses to find the next big thing, all that was required was a mere 17 mile journey to neighbouring side Wigan Athletic. Yesterday, it was announced that Antonio Valencia would be the first signing at Old Trafford since Ronaldo’s £80 million Madrid departure.

Valencia 23, will be yet another youthful singing in Ferguson’s young empire, that has been built over the past five years. Refusing to spend over the odds for ever ageing stars, Ferguson opts to sign players under the age of 25. Instead of trying to fit a players style into an already suited United team, the Scot prefers to mould the player into what he is looking for. With Alan Hansen’s famous outburst “You’ll never win anything with kids” in 1995, United have proved that they can be successful year after year with ‘kids’.

The singing comes as no surprise, but will Valencia be able to fill the vacant number seven shirt at Old Trafford? Despite United fans being left with a bitter taste in their mouths since Ronaldo’s Judas style departure to Spain, they cannot deny what he has done for the club in his five seasons in England. Valencia will not need any time to adapt to the English game, like many foreign players do including Ronaldo, and will not ruin any chances of playing for his country with poor performances - it is only Ecuador at the end of the day.

The number seven shirt has been worn by the likes of David Beckham, George Best and Eric Cantona in its time, but has Valencia got what it takes to be in the same league as these superstars?