Michael Owen joins Manchester United squad for preseason training
The former Liverpool striker will have to wait until Thursday, though, to be put through his paces alongside Wayne Rooney, one of a number of players involved in post-season World Cup qualifiers given an extended holiday by Sir Alex Ferguson. Luis Antonio Valencia, the club's only other summer signing after his £16 million switch from Wigan, is currently on holiday in Ecuador and will return to training at a later date. United travel to Malaysia and China next week to begin their pre-season tour of the Far East. Ferguson, like Owen, will welcome the chance to return to work after a summer in which he has lost Carlos Tevez, who is likely to confirm his move to Manchester City this week, and Cristiano Ronaldo, who will be unveiled as a Real Madrid player at a sell-out ceremony at the Bernabeu tonight, as well as missing out on Karim Benzema to the Spanish club. The Scot has all but given up on completing the signing of Franck Ribery, the French international, who has admitted he will only leave Bayern Munich for Madrid – rapidly reaffirming their status as Ferguson's bêtes noires – and only then at the extortionate price of around £70 million. Sources at Old Trafford were taken by surprise by Ferguson's move for Owen, as well as the move's remarkable alacrity, and many at the club expect the champions' summer spending to be at an end already, although the Owen move proves both how quickly situations can change and how rapidly Ferguson is prepared to respond. Doubts persist over his central midfield – so exposed by Barcelona in the 2-0 Champions League final defeat in May – while the arrival of Valencia, who has scored just seven goals in three years in England, does little to dispel fears among the Old Trafford faithful that life after Ronaldo will be considerably more difficult than expected.
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