Owen Hargreaves’ series of YouTube
A glittering career that has seen Hargreaves win two Champions Leagues, a Premier League (he did not receive a medal for United’s success this year), four Bundesliga titles, the England Player of the Year award for 2006 and 42 international caps has been endlessly stalled by a severe case of patellar tendonitis, an inflammation of the knee that causes chronic pain. Joining Manchester United for £17m in 2007, Hargreaves went from being one of the few bright spots of England’s dour World Cup 2006 campaign to making only sporadic appearances in United colours just a few years later, robbing both Sir Alex Ferguson and a succession of England Coaches of his ability.
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Hargreaves’ United tenure began well. Playing 34 games in his first season at Old Trafford – more than he managed in either of his last two seasons in Munich – Hargreaves helped Ferguson to a Premier League/Champions League double, scoring a crucial winning goal against Arsenal in April and playing eight games of United’s victorious European campaign, including the full 120 minutes of the final and scoring a penalty in the shootout with Chelsea. The Moscow triumph would prove to be Hargreaves’ highpoint. Only five further appearances came his way as he lost arguably the best years of his career to injury, missing out on further trophies United won in his absence. When his United contract ended this summer, Hargreaves’ departure came as little surprise.
With a career to get back on track after his high profile injury problems, Hargreaves has taken to the internet in a bid to convince potential employers of his readiness. However, the series of videos – over 20 at the time of this article – are no guarantee that Hargreaves’ knee can stand up to the rigours of Premier League football or high level action elsewhere in the world. Five appearances in three years – the last of which ended after just six minutes – will resonate louder with interested parties than anything that can be seen online, and rapidly. Fading memories of Hargreaves dominating midfields in an England shirt are likely to be the strongest attraction for managers searching for a ball-winning midfielder. A 12-month, pay-as-you-play deal is likely Hargreaves’ best chance of finding a suitor willing to give the 30-year-old the opportunity to rebuild his career, and there are a host of managers in England ever-happy to gamble in the transfer market. That an experienced, international calibre midfielder now represents a gamble some are unwilling to take speaks to just how low injuries have brought Hargreaves’ career.