Michael Owen says Little Pea is like Little Me

28 October 2010 09:25
One of the hardest things in sport is to accept that somebody is about to take your place, to look across a dressing room and see youthfulness staring back. Michael Owen does this every day.

The embodiment of what Owen once was arrived at Manchester United last summer in the shape of Javier Hernandez. Young, quick and full of goals. Some call him Chicharito. Others prefer Little Pea. What is beyond question is that the young Mexican appears to represent the future.

Owen - still only 30 but unsure of his Old Trafford prospects beyond next May - could be excused for being a little wistful. After all, it's 13 years since people were making this kind of fuss about his first Premier League goals.

Comeback trail: Owen scored United's equaliser at Bolton last month

'No I am not wistful,' smiled Owen yesterday. 'You're excited forhim in many ways, excited about what he could achieve. It's a long waydown the line but he's got the potential. Knowing how I felt when Istarted out, you're excited for all young players.'

If Owen is excited about Hernandez's arrival, then United'ssupporters are ecstatic. There were sombreros in the crowd at OldTrafford on Tuesday as the 22-year-old scored his third goal in as manydays to knock Wolves out of the Carling Cup.

Owen watched that goal from an executive box high up in theStretford End. Having pulled his hamstring executing a back-heel intraining last Friday, he may not play again for a month.

'There are some people you just want in that position when the balldrops,' said Owen. 'He's on the crest of a wave. He could have trippedover and it would have gone in off his shoulder. That's what happenswhen you're on a roll. When he went though, all those things flashthrough your mind - he's confident, he's just come off the bench andit's written for him.'

Super sharp Pea shooter: Javier Hernandez has already become a cult hero at Old Trafford

Comparisons between Owen and his young team-mate are predictable buton this occasion they would appear accurate. Hernandez is slight,gunshot quick, baby-faced and, most importantly, a naturally giftedfinisher.

'I don't think there are many goalscorers around,' Owen said.'Chicharito is obviously one. You can see it in his eyes. It is moreinstinctive. You are born with it.

'Who does he remind me of? Not really that many. Me, perhaps.Jermain Defoe is also that type. You just see in their mannerisms.There are loads of people who can score goals, who might even score 20a season, but they're not goalscorers. They might be good finishers.But he's different.

'Look at my goals and his goals. You'll rarely see us curl one intothe top corner from outside the box. We can do it but it's just not anatural position for a scorer. You play by percentages and you scoreyour goals inside the box. His movement suggests he knows where theball is going to drop and you can't teach that.'

Owen spoke to Sportsmail yesterday in support of the BBC's Childrenin Need BT 'Chat for Children' campaign. Sitting in an executive box atOld Trafford, he looked pretty much the same as he always did. 

Not again: Owen missed the remainder of last season after aggravating a hamstring problem during the Carling Cup final

These days his eyes betray a wariness that didn't used to be there,but he remains lean and boyish. His own situation is something aboutwhich he remains guarded, even a little prickly. Owen hates the factthat people suggest he is injury-prone.

When he is reminded that he has started just six Premier Leaguegames during his time at Old Trafford he replies with a statistic thatreveals he scores a goal 'every 111 minutes I am on the field'.

On the subject of his future, though, Owen would appear to be clearin his mind about one thing. When his time at the very top level isover - he is out of contract at United at the end of the season - hewon't be hanging around.

'I could score goals at this level for many years and I would loveit to be at a top club like United,' he said. 'Of course I would loveto stay here. Whether I would want to be dropping down to a poorerPremier League team, I don't know.

'Yes I could score goals but I would probably get less enjoyment.You are playing with great players here and you do get chances. At alesser team it would be harder.

Good cause: Owen joins BBC Children in Need's Pudsey to launch BT Chat for Children at Old Trafford

'There are some strikers that you look at and think, 'You couldn'tplay in a good team'. They are built to be tough, win balls andflick-ons but if you are looking for the ball to be played in to feetand use clever flicks and one-twos they would just get shown up.

'I just don't feel that my game is suited to a team who are really struggling.'

Owen was perhaps a little scarred by the four years at Newcastlethat preceded his switch to United. With his current club he has scored12 times in a spell that has seen him start 14 games and appear as asubstitute in a further 24.

Whether he is offered a new contract next summer is questionable.What is peculiar, meanwhile, is that he hasn't been offered the chanceto play more often with his former England strike partner Wayne Rooney.Owen hesitated when this was put to him before deciding not to bedrawn. Instead, he opted for diplomacy.

'I have been around and I do understand,' he said. 'Wayne is injurednow and if I go and play and score a hat-trick for two or three gamesthen Wayne will still come back.

'I know I am not as good as him - maybe 10 years ago you could argueI was as effective in different ways. There is no question I am happywhere I am. I have never once complained about anything as I haveenjoyed every minute of my time. Nobody has a bigger smile on theirface than me.'

 Not again! Owen out for three weeks as United crock is hit by hamstring woeCARLING CUP LIVE: Follow all the action from the fourth roundMy little pea shooter Hernandez can become a United legend, raves FergieWembley here we come! Cocky Smalling targets another United Carling Cup finalMANCHESTER UNITED FC

Source: Daily_Mail