Ferguson recently spoke of the impact Owen could have in scoring a vital goal during the Premier League run-in, but the harsh truth is that Owen has not played since November, and has appeared only once in the league. He is behind Wayne Rooney, Danny Welbeck and Javier Hernandez in the pecking order, and Dimitar Berbatov also has a case for being ahead of him whilst still at the club.
However, it is clear that Ferguson has trust in Owen, shown from the outset of his time at Old Trafford when he was handed the No 7 shirt. The striker has repaid that faith on a number of occasions, and would always represent a goal threat in the closing stages of a game that United are chasing.
This is one of the reasons why Ferguson awarded Owen a new contract for this campaign. The forward himself claimed that he is in “exactly the same situation” as last year. This may be true, but he is also another year older and has had another season of frustrating injuries. However he can still add value to the club, on and off the pitch.
Owen is at a club whose sports science and man-management enables players to keep going well into their thirties. He is still only 32, and having said that “joint-wise” he feels great, he could easily continue for the three years he envisages. During this time he could only help with the development of Welbeck and Hernandez, whilst his professionalism and intelligence would benefit the squad as a whole.
A new contract for Owen would also mean that United would not have to find any replacement strikers in the summer, which would surely be the case if Owen and Berbatov were both to depart. An argument could be put forward for players that have come through the academy to step up, such as Federico Macheda, Will Keane and highly rated Italian youngster Davide Petrucci. But these players do not have the valuable experience Owen possesses, and would be better off progressing alongside the former England international rather than without him.
If a sizeable fee was paid for a new striker in the next transfer window, there would be pressure on the new recruit to play, reducing the playing time of Welbeck and Hernandez, who have been jockeying all season to partner Rooney. In Welbeck in particular Ferguson could have a striker to lead United’s line for the next decade, with the 21-year-old a born and bred Mancunian who is relishing playing for his hometown club.
A new contract for Owen could perhaps be seen as a gamble and lack of short term progress, but the manager is always thinking about the long game.
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