Premier League champions Manchester United are set to sign out-of-favour England striker Michael Owen on a surprise free transfer deal, according to reports in the British press on Friday.
The move could be tied up later in the day if Owen passes a medical. Owen's contract with Newcastle, relegated from the English top-flight last season, lapsed on 1 July.
It seemed the only clubs interested in signing the 29-year-old former Liverpool and Real Madrid striker were Stoke and Hull - both Premier League sides but teams for whom staying up was an achievement in itself. However, they now appear to have been joined by United, who have seen forwards Cristiano Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez both leave Old Trafford since the end of last season.
United manager Sir Alex Ferguson is reportedly planning to sign Owen, whose time at Newcastle was blighted by a succession of injury problems, on a pay-as-you-play deal. Owen's weekly wage at Newcastle, for whom he scored ten goals last season, was believed to be around £120,000 (US$197,000) but reports said he would take a substantial paycut to sign for a leading Premier League club.
The forward, who has scored 40 goals in 89 England appearances, has yet to persuade England coach Fabio Capello he has a future at international level. But Owen's career could be rejuvenated by playing alongside the likes of England striker Wayne Rooney at Old Trafford. United have yet to make a public comment about the proposed deal.