Just when Michael Owen looked set to check out property in Stoke or Hull Sir Alex Ferguson gave him the phone call he dreamed of and snapped him up from under the nose of perma-tanned wonder Phil Brown.
The destination of Owen’s next club had been one of a handful of tedious, recurring stories over the summer, along with Ronaldo and Man City and their Arabian chequebook.
The big four were quickly discounted - ‘he isn’t good enough for them’ they said. Logic then pointed towards Everton and Aston Villa, the sides immediately below them, and stories linking Owen with moves to Goodison or Villa Par emerged. But their silence was deafening. When Stoke and Hull declared their interest the media began to take great satisfaction in sounding the last post of Owen’s career.
Granted the now infamous glossy brochure didn’t help Owen’s image, it stank of desperation. The media immediately seized upon it, relishing Owen’s downfall. It is a classic British media tactic, build them up only to knock them down. I can imagine them desperately waiting for Owen to sign for Stoke or Hull to seal his demise in their eyes.
But as soon as Fergie picked up the phone the obituaries were postponed and all of a sudden, Owen was once again one of England’s greatest goalscorers available on a free on knockdown wages. Not an injury prone has-been without a club who was a shadow of his former self and had just helped to carry a team down into the Championship.
It may turn out to be an inspired move by Ferguson, there is no doubting that, but it is amazing how quickly the media’s view changes when someone as respected as Fergie goes after a player. I am surprised the realities of the situation have been brushed over by the majority of the press who have instead preferred to stare, misty eyed, at the grainy images of Owen scoring against Argentina at the ’98 World Cup. Yet on the face of things United have sold their best player for £80 million, missed out on their top transfer targets before signing a 29 year old on a free.
I get the impression many supporters hope Owen is a success. He is, after all, one of the best ever Premier League players and doesn’t deserve the amount of stick he has received the past few years. But similarly I don’t think he deserves all the praise he is getting at the moment; he can’t turn the clock back after all. In true tabloid style the hacks have swung from one extreme to the other when I suspect the truth will lie somewhere in the middle.
First published over at Dangerhere.