Owen completes United swap
© AFP

Michael Owen has joined English champions Manchester United on a two-year contract, the club announced on Friday.

Injury-prone England striker Owen, 29, a free agent after his Newcastle contract expired at the end of last month, underwent a medical at a Manchester hospital on Friday before returning to United's Carrington training ground to complete the shock deal.

The move came after the only clubs interested in signing the former Liverpool and Real Madrid striker appeared to be Stoke and Hull - both Premier League sides but teams for whom staying up was an achievement in itself.

Michael is a world class forward with a proven goalscoring record at the highest level and that has never been in question.
United boss Alex Ferguson on Michael Owen

Owen underwent a medical examination on the knee injury which sidelined him for much of his time at Newcastle on Thursday. But United manager Sir Alex Ferguson said signing Owen did not represent a gamble on his part. "Michael is a world class forward with a proven goalscoring record at the highest level and that has never been in question," the coach said. "Coming to Manchester United with the expectations that we have is something that Michael will relish."

Surprise call
It has been reported that Ferguson has signed a pay-as-you-play deal with Owen, whose weekly wage at Newcastle had been believed to be as high as 197,000 USD. Owen, who scored just 10 goals for the Magpies as they were relegated from the English Premier League last season, said he'd been as stunned as anyone by United's interest in him.

"I had just begun to talk to other clubs when out of the blue Sir Alex phoned me on Wednesday afternoon, invited me to have breakfast with him next morning during which he told me that he wanted to sign me," he said. "I agreed without a moment's thought. This is a fantastic opportunity for me and I intend to seize it with both hands."