Graeme Souness: Manchester United 'will revive Michael Owen's England career'
Souness, who signed Owen when at Newcastle for a club-record £17million deal from Real Madrid four years ago, is confident Owen will flourish with the Premier League champions and reclaim his place in the England squad ahead of next summer's World Cup finals. Owen celebrated his move, which was completed on Friday, at the Eclipse Stakes at Sandown Park yesterday, indulging the passion for horse-racing he shares with his new manager. Souness is certain that, despite Owen's problems with injuries and a decline in his form, Sir Alex Ferguson has acquired a thoroughbred. "It is a fabulous bit of business by Sir Alex Ferguson," Souness told Telegraph Sport. "Whatever deal goes through whether it is pay as you play or something else it will work out well because Michael is still only 29 and he hasn't lost any of his desire. "Nor does he have any medical problems to stop him from becoming a top player and possibly the top scorer in the Premier League. When I was at Newcastle I only had him for 10 games because of injury and we won the majority of them thanks to Michael." It has been widely argued that Owen's role at United will be restricted to more peripheral duties next season. Wayne Rooney and Dimitar Berbatov are Ferguson's first-choice strikers and Owen could be used as an impact substitute in deadlocked games, or as a flat-track bully to convert chances against lesser opponents. Yet Souness rejects this suggestion and believes the former European Footballer of the year will be central to United's plans. "Michael could be about to enter the best period of his career. He will be playing for the best team he has ever played for; that's bad news for my old club, Liverpool, and I'm a bit disappointed that they didn't want him back, but then again everyone sees things differently. "I think Michael is an extremely dangerous animal; he's been criticised by almost everyone recently and, with that in mind, Old Trafford will be the perfect environment for him to thrive in." It seems inconceivable that Owen will not improve on his performances for Newcastle last season. Alan Shearer had trumpeted Owen as the player to save Newcastle from relegation in the last eight games of the season, but the once prolific striker cut an impotent figure as they sank towards the Championship. Since losing his pace, Owen needs the right context to thrive: the quality of delivery and vision to enable his finishing talents. To say he has not had that at Newcastle is an understatement; but at United he will have those opportunities in abundance. The motivation to succeed will be intense. Owen is fiercely proud and the criticism of recent years, including his exile for the national side, have made him defensive. In this regard the move is perfect for him: an elite platform to play on, with an incentivised deal – basic wages as low as £30,000 per week, according to some reports – to prove that he is playing for silver not lucre. The transfer can only enhance his chances of returning to the national squad. Fabio Capello, the England head coach, has never closed the door on Owen, but has not seen him fit, or in form for long enough, to justify a call-up, especially when it is unclear how he would fit in to England's tactical system. However, Souness believes the transfer will be a catalyst to a recall and that Owen will be part of England's squad in South Africa. "I have no doubts whatsoever that Michael will be at the World Cup finals next year with England, and Sir Bobby Charlton's England goal-scoring record will be under serious threat again. "I am a big fan of Michael and am certain he will be a resounding success at Manchester Untied – and that is good news for Fabio Capello."
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