Michael Owen still has a future with Manchester United, says Sir Alex Ferguson (embargoed)
Owen has been told he will not play again this season after a visit to a London specialist on Thursday confirmed that the hamstring injury sustained during last Sunday's Carling Cup final victory against Aston Villa was more serious than initially thought. The blow has not only extinguished Owen's flickering hopes of a place in England's World Cup squad. The 30 year-old's unavailability also creates a headache for Ferguson, who now has just two senior forwards Wayne Rooney and Dimitar Berbatov for a campaign that could run until the Champions League final on May 22. Despite naming him in his starting line-up just 11 times this season, Ferguson insists that Owen has been a success since his free transfer from Newcastle last summer and he has assured the former Liverpool forward that he will still be in his plans next season. Ferguson said: "Michael will be here next season, absolutely. His training performances have been terrific, he's been good in the dressing room and every game he came on for us he made a chance. "He is an important player for us. He was always a threat in terms of movement in the last third of the field, creating chances and in some cases doing very well for us. "But he is out for the rest of the season because his injury is more serious than we thought. He'll have an operation on Monday morning. It's a terrible blow for the lad and disappointing for us too. I think the heavy pitch at Wembley made some contribution to the injury, but it's really just bad luck." Owen's goal in the Carling Cup final win against Villa highlighted his value to Ferguson's team and the United manager admits he would have had more opportunities but for the form of Rooney. Ferguson said: "I know I've maybe not used him as much as I should have, but that's had a lot to do with Rooney's form and us choosing to play with one striker a lot of the time. Michael has been unfortunate with that, but he's made a great contribution and we recognise that." Owen said: "Unfortunately, the specialist says I will miss the end of the season. "I have loved every minute of my first campaign with United and have already enjoyed some memorable moments. I am determined to come back at the start of next season in peak condition." Ferguson, who admitted that Berbatov was playing with a knee problem that may require surgery in the summer, revealed that Owen Hargreaves was due to play in the reserves next week after almost two years on the sidelines. He said: "Hargreaves has shown this week that's he's almost ready to play again and I've got him pencilled in for a reserve game on Thursday."
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