Michael Owen has grabbed the chance to resurrect his career by joining Manchester United and pledged to repay manager Alex Ferguson for giving him a platform on which to shine with the Premier League champions.
“This is a fantastic opportunity for me and I intend to seize it with both hands,” the England striker told the club’s Web site on Friday after leaving Championship (second division) club Newcastle United.
“I want to thank Sir Alex for the faith he has shown in me and I give him my assurance I will repay him with my goals and performances,” he said after becoming the first player since Paul Ince in 1997 to sign for Liverpool and Manchester United.
While Ferguson’s audacious move to bring in former European Footballer of the Year Owen on a two-year deal is considered a gamble by many pundits, the capture of the 29-year-old striker is effectively a risk-free move by the United manager.
Owen has joined the club on a free transfer with British media reporting the contract is based heavily on incentives.
Having lost top forwards Cristiano Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez already during this close season, Ferguson has moved quickly to enlist a striker with a proven track record to provide competition for Wayne Rooney and Dimitar Berbatov in attack.
The former Liverpool and Real Madrid marksman, who has been plagued by fitness problems in recent years, was particularly happy about the timing of his move to Old Trafford.
“I missed pre-season last year and I am pleased I will be starting at Carrington [United’s training ground] from day one,” Owen said. “I am now looking forward to being a Manchester United player and I am fortunate I already know so many of the players here.”
Media reports had linked Owen with Hull City and Stoke City, clubs at the other end of the Premier League table, and it was no surprise that he was delighted to instead join the champions.
“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 the next morning during which he told me he wanted to sign me,” the striker said. “I agreed without a moment’s thought.”
Owen, who has 89 England caps and 40 international goals but has fallen out of favor under the country’s Italian manager Fabio Capello, has been upset by the negativity directed at him during a disappointing four-year spell at Newcastle.
Ferguson is clearly hoping to tap into the player’s determination to prove the doubters wrong and England, who are in pole position to qualify from their group for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, could also benefit from the move.
Renewing his old international partnership with Rooney at Old Trafford represents the perfect chance for Owen to bang in the goals that may persuade Capello to recall him to the England fold in time for a trip to next year’s finals.