Malaysia XI 2 Man Utd 3: Owen adds another chapter to fairytale
19 July 2009 09:20
Of course he marked his Manchester United debut by scoring the winner - he just had to. Michael Owen gilded his fairytale move to the Premier League champions by sparing their blushes with a typical opportunist strike five minutes from the end.
And afterwards Sir Alex Ferguson enthused about his 29-year-old Bosman free transfer man from relegated Newcastle. 'He'll be delighted to have got off the mark. I know he'll get us plenty of goals when it matters and that will be the time to appraise him,' said the United manager.
'It was a typical Michael Owen goal. He was the only player to react when the ball broke loose.
'Our No 7 shirt has been worn by a lot of high-profile players and I knew the kind of experience and temperament that Michael has means he'll enjoy the honour.
'Others might not relish the challenge of wearing that shirt, but he will.'
Owen himself insists that his new responsibilities will prove his England career is far from over and that he can be a key figure in Fabio Capello's World Cup plans. And he has set him-self the target of overhauling United legend Sir Bobby Charlton's record
49 international goals.
The striker said: 'I've never given up on England. I'm confident I'll play for the national side again. I would have to be playing in United's starting XI and playing regularly, but I have nine goals to go to catch Sir Bobby and that's a good year-and-a-half of England games, isn't it?
'Coming to United can only help me rediscover my best form because I'm playing with world-class players all over the pitch.
I know it's going to be fantastic for me. It has clicked straight away for me in training and I now feel like I did eight years ago.
'That's no disrespect to the lads at Newcastle, because there are some good players there. But I feel right at home at United. I see someone like Wayne Rooney or Paul Scholes receive the ball and I know straight away what kind of run they want me to make.'
Owen acknowledges his career at Newcastle did not pan out as he had hoped but believes he can get back on track at Old Trafford.
He said: 'I probably could have done better in that last season, maybe scored more goals.
'But I'm looking forward to the new season. You don't really feel it until you start playing a few games and feel what it's like to win together. Then you will feel you really belong to the team.
I'm coming into a team who are full of confidence and winning
lots of things.'
Before Owen's dramatic intervention yesterday, which got United off to a winning start in a four-match Asian tour splintered by the bombing tragedy in Jakarta, 85,000 fanatical fans - all but a few decked out in United red in the Bukit Jalil Stadium here in the Malaysian capital - had discovered a new local hero in Malaysian blue.
Wayne Rooney struck in the eighth minute and set up Nani for a second in the 23rd to underline the apparent gulf in class between the sides.
But Yahyah pulled one back on the stroke of halftime with a superb 30-yard volley that caught Edwin Van der Sar off his line.
Mohd Amri Yahyah, a 28-year-old striker recalled after a three-year international exile, scored twice to turn what had started as a routine canter for England's champions into an unseemly struggle in oppressively humid conditions with temperatures that reached the nineties.
Ben Foster, the Holland keeper's second-half replacement, was a much more culpable figure when Malaysia drew level in the 52nd minute. He fiddled at a straight back-pass from Darron Gibson and was hustled out of the ball by Yahyah, who had a simple task to tuck it into an empty net.
United's efforts grew more desperate as the minutes ticked by until Owen, a 60th-minute substitute for Rooney, pounced on a loose ball after home keeper Mohd Farizal Marlias had half-saved from Federico Macheda.