Alex Ferguson – lateral thinker?

The big surprise yesterday was Manchester United’s signing of Michael Owen. I trawl the transfer gossip sites on a daily basis (if you had my job, you would too) and there was no word at all of this. Indeed, much merriment was had by all at Owen’s fall from international star, to hobbled has-been, reduced to sending out a P.R. brochure to the likes of Hull and Stoke.

Thinking about it, I think Fergie’s pulled off a stunner. Rooney and Berbatov are the first choice strikers, with youngsters Wellbeck, Macheda, Campbell and Manucho on hand to play limited roles. Owen basically comes in to replace Tevez.

Tevez, beloved of the fans (but willing to sign for City, so it wasn’t as reciprocated as he may have made out) is a good player, but similar to Rooney and, frankly, he has the first touch of a rapist. Trying hard is the least you expect of a player who struggles to trap the ball. Unhappy with his role as a substitute (get used to that at City, they’ve signed Santa Cruz and want E’tto, that’s eleven strikers!), it would have cost United £25.5 million pounds (!) on top of the initial £10 million to sign him, not counting the wages paid so far, and the reported £120,000 a week his agent wanted. Owen comes in on a free transfer and a reportedly low basic wage, loaded with bonuses.

Other points to consider; Owen still has an amazing goals per game ratio (roughly one in every two), has played at the highest level for club and country. Bear in mind, only Charlton, Lineker and Greaves have scored more goals for England (ten more England goals would see him pass all three). He’s motivated to get back into the Champions League (he will now) and the national team (playing alongside Rooney, Capello’s first pick, gives him that chance).

He’s still only 29 years old and has never been known to be anything other than a good professional, someone Fergie will use as an example to the kids in the squad who will be ready to step up when Owen’s contract runs out. The fact that he’s an ex-Dipper will wind their fans up immensely and no doubt Fergie would love to get one over on Shearer (who rejected United twice) by getting his best pal performing in a way he couldn’t last year.

Now, the elephant in the room. Injuries have put teams off Owen but United’s investment has been minimal. Worst case scenario, they end up with a player who fails to make a great contribution. Owen passed United’s medical and the gaffer knows he can be patient. Newcastle had a ton of cash invested in him and tried to rush him back and play him every week, irrespective of his fitness (a truly Calderwood-ian tactic). United don’t have to.

If Owen plays twenty games next season and scores twelve (quite possible in my opinion, having seen most of United’s games last year) they’ll probably retain the Championship. If Owen plays most of the season, he could easily get 25 and be back in the national team (his stated aim) for the World Cup. Fergie knows that in the last three seasons (partially obscured by the departed Ronaldo’s goal tallies) United struggled to put teams away, especially at home. I can think of eight or nine games I saw on Setanta at Old Trafford where all United needed was someone in the box to put away half-chances. Owen can do that on one leg (thirty goals in sixty nine games for Newcastle).

Plus, amidst the shock at the decision, it should be remembered that it’s Sir Alexander Chapman Ferguson C.B.E. we’re talking about here.

There’s a reason he’s won Two Champions Cups, two Cup Winner’s Cups, two World Club Cups, two Super Cups, fourteen League titles, nine Cups, four League Cups and eight Charity Shields, was the man who binned King Joey (and got away with it!) and understands who is the best central defender of all time. I think he knows what he’s doing…


One Response to “Alex Ferguson – lateral thinker?”

  1. Notice that some bookies are offering 16/1 for Owen to be Premiership top scorer. Not bad for a washed-up, injury-prone reserve!

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