Posted on July 22, 2009
Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand is backing new team-mate Michael Owen to fire the Red Devils to glory this season.
As a regular colleague of Owen’s with England, Ferdinand is acutely aware of the 29-year-old’s predatory instincts.
United supporters are beginning to find out too given Owen has scored in both games on the Red Devils’ pre-season tour of the Far East, even though it is fairly obvious that much stiffer tests await than those that were posed by a Malaysian XI over the past few days.
Nevertheless, it is the first step towards proving that Owen has not lost his natural talent amid the wreckage of four awful years at Newcastle, blighted by injury and poor form.
And Ferdinand knows Owen could turn out to be a major factor in United’s pursuit of an unprecedented fourth consecutive league championship.
“He is one of those players you might not see for 90 minutes but in time added on, he will score a goal,” said Ferdinand.
“Those are the type of players you need to win things.
“It is great to have him in our squad because he is such a good player and a fantastic lad to have around.
“Fingers crossed he can have an injury free season and score some goals for us.”
With Fabio Capello largely ignoring Owen on fitness grounds since his installation as England coach 19 months ago, Ferdinand has been restricted to watching from afar as the reputation of England’s fourth highest goalscorer took a nosedive.
After Cristiano Ronaldo left for Real Madrid in exchange for a whopping £80million cheque and Carlos Tevez made his bad-tempered way to Manchester City, the United faithful were hoping for a significant statement of intent in response.
The reaction to news of Owen being targeted as a replacement following the failed attempt to sign Karim Benzema was first stunned amazement, then dismay, before finally they arrived at a general feeling of nothing ventured, nothing gained.
Ferdinand probably felt the same, although his time with Owen wearing England’s Three Lions gives him an insight available to few others.
“The lads get a great buzz out of seeing someone like Michael Owen score goals,” he said.
“When he signed for the club there were a lot of doubters out there. People were saying all kinds of things about him. We have heard it all.
“But the players go in there with an open mind and just hope to see the player we know Michael can be.”
It has to be said, the initial signs are encouraging.
“So far this pre-season he has played two games and scored two goals,” he said.
“That speaks for itself. When he is on his game, there are not many better finishers in world football.”
Question marks hanging over Owen will probably not be totally dispelled until he gets through half a season without suffering a significant injury.
Ferdinand will not be judged quite as harshly, nevertheless, after a back problem that kept him out for six weeks following United’s return from their successful Club World Cup quest last December and a calf strain that ruled him out for two weeks immediately before the Champions League final and an England double-header straight afterwards, there are a few doubts about him as well.
“It is probably the first season I have ever been injured really but I still played 43 games,” he said.
“However, I accept I missed a few so hopefully this season it will be back to normal practice.”
Looking back, Ferdinand accepts he was not 100% in Rome as United were flogged so mercilessly by Barcelona.
Not that he is using it as an excuse, just the reality of life as a modern-day top-flight professional.
“Obviously you would prefer to go into any game feeling you are the best you can be,” he said.
“But realistically the football season does not allow for that.
“You carry niggles most of the time and the Champions League final was no different.
“I did a little bit of training on my own this summer but I have started the pre-season with everybody else and been happy with it.”