Manchester United are crazy to sign Michael Owen
The news today is that Michael Owen is close to a shock free transfer to English and world champions Manchester United. This seems like a bit of a gamble on a player that has spent the most part of the past 4 seasons injured.
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Has led to a decline in team quality
Since the Champions League final in May, United have now lost Cristiano Ronaldo, and Carlos Tevez. They have subsequently replaced them with Antonio Valencia and Michael Owen. I would hardly say this constitutes effective squad strengthening. if anything it has lead to a weakening in the quality of the team.
However, Cristiano Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez were both as good as gone before Owen arrived at the club, so it seems to me slightly illogical to argue that signing Owen has "led" to a decline in quality. He may be inadequete cover for the likes of Tevez, but United are by no means finished in the transfer market and could well sign another world-class striker before the window closes thanks to the astronomic transfer fee for Ronaldo. Owen may prove to be simply a punt and no replacement for Tevez, but surely signing him in addition to another striker (or indeed two) for an overall profit can only be a good way of covering for the unwanted loss of two key players and will also bolster overall squad options and strength.
Serious injury problems
Michael Owen signed for Newcastle in August 2005, but only managed 79 games for the club in this period. This is a shocking return for any player, never mind a player who still believes he is entitled to a regular place in the England squad. Unlike at Newcastle, he will need to stay fit and on form if he is to command any semblance of a regular part in Uniteds plans, or else Ferguson will very quickly lose patience with him, and it would be very hard to see how he could re-establish himself at the highest level if he was to fail.
Michael Owen has been assessed rigorously by the top physios at the club and the results have been completely positive. He has got a bad track record of injuries, but that does not necessarily mean that this trend will continue and there are good signs for the future, if his camp and the press is to be believed.
Has always been over rated
Many people, including myself, believe that Owen has always been a touch over rated. People trumpet him as being one of the deadliest strikers of his generation. However on a closer look at his stats, he has never scored more than 20 league goals in a season. Compared to the records of Ronaldo, Drogba, Henry, or even Fowler before him at Anfield, it is not the record of a top class striker.
It has to be bared in mind that Owen's career has been predominantly spent at a Liverpool side that struggled under Gerard Houillier to create chances and were consistently very negative and an extremely frustrating side. At Real Madrid, he had the highest strike ratio for minutes played in La Liga (he scored 13 in 35 appearances, but these were mainly as a substitute), whilst, though his injury spell at Newcastle is well-known he still scored 26 in 71. Before Houillier's reign where Fowler burst onto the scene and scored so many under Roy Evans the Liverpool side was much more attack-minded, though not more successful (notice that after 1997 Fowler fails to score over 20 in a season for the rest of his career though he is only 22 ath this point). His strike-rate seriously declines after the same period. Unlike Owen who is solely a finisher, Henry and Ronaldo are such complete players that they have barely had to rely on good service to make an impact, whilst Drogba played in a much more successful team to achieve his success (sorry Liverpool fans). Owen should therefore not be judged solely on goals scored at club level alongside these players as they have been in different contexts. I would argue also that his international record (in order of goal-ratio: Drogba 61(38), Owen 89(40), Henry 111(48) Ronaldo 64(22)) compares favourably to the four players mentioned and his consistently good strike rate make him a safe buy for Sir Alex in terms of class.
United cannot really lose
As much of a gamble as this is for United, it is a very low risk one. They are getting Englands 4th highest goal scorer of all time and a former European player of the year for free. With United being an infinately more professional and better run club than the one Owen has just left, it is likely that United will not give him the astronomical wages he recieved at Newcastle but tie him down to more of a pay as you play deal. This means that if it doesnt work out then United will have lost little money, and if it is a success then they will have got a very fine striker on the cheap
Owen had a good goals to game ratio at Newcastle
Despite all of his criticism, Owen scored 30 goals in his 79 Newcastle appearances, which works out at a goal every 2.6 games. This is an excellent return for a striker who must have spent alot of time working his way back to fitness and playing in a struggling team that eventually got relegated. If he can stay fit at United, the increase in chances presented to him would surely result in an even more impressive goals to game ratio.
Class is permanent
Michael Owen is a proven goal scorer and an undoubted talent. While his sharpness and edge may have been blunted over the years due to injury etc, his skill remains permanent. Placing him in a winning environment with a world class set of support staff and arguably the best manager of all time behind him, his weaknesses will be ironed out and he will provide the goals that Manchester United will so desperately need next season.
Michael Owen is not the same player who burst onto the scene in the 1998 World Cup. The fact is that he is aging and is losing the weapons that made him such a dangerous player in his youth. His goals per games ratio, though still high, is declining, he is losing his searing pace with age and injuries and, without any natural strength or height, only has guile and experience in his arsenal. How far can this take him now?
What do you think?