No transfer has ever had more of the Glazers about it than Owen to United (unless you know of and believe the intricacies and reasoning behind the Bebe deal). A once lethal goalscorer and boy-wonder, on a free transfer having taken a pay-cut on a pay-as-you-play deal. It seems absurd that I'm even contemplating this but signing Owen on for another year may well be important for the club's future strikers and seems likely to happen.
Owen's signing represented everything that's depressing about the current ownership of the club and its attitude towards signings. Initially, whilst displeased, I was certainly in the 'it's a risk-free signing' camp and with 18 starts in his three seasons at the club, as I suspected, he wasn't brought in to play regularly. The goals he has scored have generally been important in one way or another and only serve to prove that he's still and probably always will be a good finisher. There's certainly some truth to the party-line that Fergie loves to tow, "if you could pick one player for the ball to fall to..."
Somewhat incredibly Owen's career has become something of a joke - this is a guy who scored at better than a goal every other game for Liverpool and almost certainly would have been England's top scorer had he stayed fit (people forget how good 40 goals in 89 caps is). Yet, today, Owen is known for liking horses, having an app and being somewhat dull on Twitter. Seemingly content with just being at United even if he's not playing, these last few years of Owen's career have hardly been the twilight he maybe once envisaged even if he has picked up a Premier League winner's medal.
Owen's tenure at the club should in reality be coming to an end this summer but with Ferguson refusing to rule out keeping him and even suggesting that he could play a part (crazily ahead of Berbatov) this season that's starting to look unlikely. I suggested he'd be one to leave but I've now decided to back-track on that and change my tone. In fact, I'm crazily all for keeping Owen for another year. There is some logic to this madness though.
United are currently at an interesting place in terms of strikers. Past precedent has been to try and ensure that there are four good strikers at the club - a necessity when playing a 4-4-2. However, as football has moved more towards a one striker system (or in United's case, a fluid interchanging front four), the striking requirements have shifted more towards having three and a half strikers - three good forwards and one more who's either a squad player or a versatile winger.
As United have hinted at moving away from a 4-4-2, the use of a fourth striker this season has been minimal, even with injuries to Rooney, Welbeck and Hernandez. Neither Berbatov nor Owen have ever had to be picked for more than two games in a row - both, arguably, are surplus to requirements. Yet, whilst Berbatov is almost certain to go, Owen should be kept on as fourth choice.
Below the first team, United have four strikers of which two/three could possibly play the fourth choice back-up role but for the sake of their development it would be completely pointless. William Keane, Joshua King, John Cofie, and Kiko Macheda (should he stay) are all at a place in their careers where they've been deemed to have out-grown Reserve football. If any of them are to stake a first team claim in the future, what they need is regular minutes at a competitive level rather than to have any development stunted by games on the bench or left out of match-day squads.
With that in mind, some kind of stop-gap fourth choice striker is needed. There's no point spending big on a player or bring in someone who'll get restless and fed up with a lack of minutes. An older, experienced player seems the best option - someone who if called upon isn't fazed by the task that may face them. With that in mind, signing Owen on for another season makes some sense (a Glazer wet-dream), unfortunately.
As ever with Owen though, his battle to stay fit is a concern. There's no point having a back-up who you may be unable to call upon for over half the season. As for whether Owen's the right type of player - well, his link-up play is better than I ever realised and he certainly takes up sensible positions. He hasn't the pace to frighten teams anymore but his finishing is certainly still good. As far as fourth choice strikers who hopefully won't have to play much and won't complain about that go, he's a sound enough choice.
So there you go. A player who shouldn't be at United and who I don't particularly want at United should probably, logically, get a new one year deal. Go figure.
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