Fresh hope for Hargreaves
The second year anniversary of Owen Hargreaves' last senior start for United will be reached in 17 days with still little sign of a permanent return for the England midfielder. The 29-year-old was last named in Sir Alex Ferguson's XI at Stamford Bridge against Chelsea on September 21 2008. Since then it has been a long and traumatic attempted comeback saga that sees United's £18m buy from Bayern Munich in the summer of 2007 back in the States under going rehab. Hargreaves was forced back to the Colorado clinic of knee specialist Dr Richard Steadman in July for further investigation. Hargreaves had surgery on both his knees in Colorado in 2009 in a bid to cure the chronic tendonitis that had blighted his Old Trafford career. Having played for 30 seconds as a late sub at Sunderland in May, it looked like the one-time England engine-room star had put all his problems behind him. Sadly just as he was about to be named in United's pre-season touring squad of America, Fergie announced that Hargreaves had had to return across the Atlantic. Though he has been named in United's Premier League squad for the campaign there has been no up-to-date medical bulletin from Old Trafford on his condition and he has not been named in Fergie's Champions League squad. The July setback has added fuel to the inevitable concern that after 24 months, two operations and endless rehabilitation work Hargreaves' career is in serious jeopardy. But a Manchester-based orthopaedic consultant has told MEN Sport that it might not necessarily be a grim outlook for the United player. We don't know what happened at that point in the summer that made Owen return to the clinic in America, says Sanjiv Jari from the Manchester Sports Medicine Clinic. It would be a concern if he has gone back for more surgery. But if he has returned because of a setback in rehab, then I don't think it is necessarily a major issue. Had the recent setback been a major one, I think Owen would have been forced to consider his future and you'd know about it now. Hopefully is it was a minor setback and he can work through that. Rather than a signal that things are bleak it maybe more of a psychological blow for the player and his rehab team than anything else. I understand that fans may been seriously worried that if Owen is still not back after two years then it doesn't look good. But I am not unduly surprised he has been out this long. There is no time limit to these chronic problems as long as he is making progress. I would not be unduly concerned. The surgery he has had is only part of it. The rehab is the unknown factor. I believe his main problem has been patella tendonitis but there maybe wear and tear involved in all this. If that is the case then that can slow down your recovery so the length of time it is taking is not really an issue. Strengthening As long as he is progressing with his strengthening and conditioning work and passing each test then they'll continue as long as it takes even though it maybe frustating for all concerned. They key is not to push him. He should be allowed to go at his own rate. Yes, this kind of injury has ended sportsman's careers. But that's not in every case. Without knowing the full facts, on the face of it I am sure if Owen can comeback and play for United, he will strive to do so. The next stage is another issue. There is a good chance he will return but the bigger question is how will his knees cope with the stress and rigours of a season playing at Manchester United's level? But at what point would a specialist sit Hargreaves down with the brutal news that his career is over? You wouldn't be surprised at any stage if he breaks down and he says enough is enough, added Mr Jari. If you are not getting anywhere and are continuously battering your head against a brick wall then you have to consider it. When you are dealing with a professional athlete that is a very difficult decision to come to. My view would always be to give them the best opportunity and go on as long as you can. I think it is up to the player to make the decision. You can advise but the lead has to come from the athlete. They know when they've had enough and it is no use continuing. If Owen can still see progress and is happy then I would be happy to continue with the work. :: MR Sanjiv Jari is at the Manchester Sports Medicine Clinic and also provides information and advise on the Football4Football.com website and at thekneedoc.co.uk Would a fully fit Hargreaves get into United's first team at the moment? Have your say.
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