21 August 2009

Michael Owen already under pressure!


Sir Alex Ferguson has described Owen's free-transfer arrival from Newcastle earlier this summer as a "punt", but, so far, there is little evidence of a goalscoring return from the 29-year-old former England forward.


Two games into the Premier League campaign and United have scored just once against the promoted pair of Birmingham City and Burnley. The summer departures of Cristiano Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez, who contributed 41 goals between them last season, are already beginning to tell.


Owen, despite his injury-ravaged recent past, has been recruited to help make up the shortfall in front of goal, but his return of four goals in four games during the pre-season tour of the Far East, against flimsy opposition, can now be send in a clearer perspective.


A fluffed opportunity against Birmingham, when he failed to score from a one-on-one against the goalkeeper in injury time, and an off-target header from close range at Turf Moor prove that at least that Owen is getting chances. The concern for United is that he is not taking them.


The blistering pace of Owen's youth is gone, but he has re-modeled his game to become a live threat inside the penalty area. When the chances arrive, though, Owen is snatching at them in the manner of a forward who knows he has scored just once in his last 20 senior outings.


Owen has yet to win hearts and minds amongst some United supporters, who continue to view him suspiciously as a Liverpool "cast-off".


An editorial in the latest issue of the United fanzine, Red Issue, suggests that the "horrified reactions back in June that greeted the first rumours United were in line to sign him are the true measure of his standing".


Owen can silence his critics only by scoring goals. Fabio Capello, another Owen doubter, will have left Turf Moor on Wednesday evening to news of Jermain Defoe's hat-trick for Spurs at Hull, further convinced that Defoe, rather than Owen, is his best option in South Africa next summer.


Wayne Rooney has already raised his game to another level in the absence of Ronaldo, but neither Owen nor Dimitar Berbatov appear on the same wavelength!!


There is little opportunity for Ferguson to perform a late about-turn and sign another forward before the transfer deadline. Not only is value difficult to find, but the best options – Karim Benzema, Tevez, Samuel Eto'o and Zlatan Ibrahimovic – have already found new clubs.


Sergio Aguero, David Villa and Defoe could be targeted, but the prospects of striking a deal are slim, despite the £80 million banked for Ronaldo that remains unspent. Does SAF want to spend the jingle in his pocket?


United need to find their scoring boots quickly. After Saturday's trip to Wigan, Ferguson's team face Arsenal, Spurs and local rivals Manchester City in successive league games and there will be no margin for error in any of them.

-M.S.

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