Owen: It's a very exciting time
Doubts may have been expressed about the wisdom of Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson signing Michael Owen, but the two men themselves are convinced the deal will be a success. There is little financial risk to the Red Devils, who have signed the striker on a free transfer as he can no longer command the £110,000 per week he was on at Newcastle United.
Owen may not be the marquee name fans were hoping for after losing out to Real Madrid in the £30m pursuit of Lyon striker Karim Benzema, with the club also likely to suffer the same fate with Bayern Munich winger Franck Ribery. But at 29, if he can keep himself free from injury, England's greatest modern-day goalscorer may yet have a significant part to play in United's history over the course of his two-year contract.
For the player himself, it provides one final chance to prove wrong the doubters - England coach Fabio Capello included - who claim he is finished after four years of injury torment at St James' Park. United, unlike their other top-four rivals, also present the greatest chance of winning silverware; something Owen has not done since he lifted the League Cup with Liverpool in 2003.
"Manchester United, you automatically think winners, you think trophies, you think the stadium, the massive fan base, but until you sign you don't really let yourself get carried away," said Owen. "There's so many top players here, obviously it's a very exciting time for me.
"Right throughout the squad they are obviously a fantastic team with fantastic players, that's why they've all won so much throughout their careers, and hopefully I can jump on the bandwagon, score a few goals, and help us to further success."
It could be argued that, injuries aside, Owen was never likely to regain his best form playing in a Newcastle team that lurched from one crisis to the next, on and off the pitch, and was ultimately relegated last season. Having played for Liverpool, where he won European Footballer of the Year award in 2001, and Real Madrid, for one brief season, the 29-year-old is used to being surrounded by top talent.
Having such high-class support makes his job as a goalscorer so much easier as he does not have to do it all himself. There were times at Newcastle, particularly in their failed fight against relegation, when it seemed he was carrying the expectations of not only the team but the entire Geordie nation.
At Old Trafford, no one individual is held up as a talisman or a saviour - something highlighted by the £80m sale of Cristiano Ronaldo to Real Madrid. With other players to do much of his running and greater creativity around him, Owen has the best environment in which to succeed. And even he, scorer of 40 goals in 89 England internationals, admits he is excited about playing in the same team as the likes of Wayne Rooney, Dimitar Berbatov and Ryan Giggs.
"A few days ago I never really had it in my wildest dreams," said Owen, who seemed set to be fought over by Hull City and Stoke City before Ferguson made his move. "I probably won't sleep at night thinking about all the top players I'm going to be playing alongside, so there's a lot to think about and a lot to get excited about."
Owen will also benefit from the full backing of Ferguson, having known for some time his new manager was an admirer of his talents. "In the last few years I had an idea that the manager obviously thought I had something, so I always clung to that hope that he would ask me to come and play for him one day," he added.
"I'm not silly, I know there will be some people saying maybe the manager shouldn't have signed me. That gradually goes in time and as soon as the first game kicks off, I can do my talking on the pitch."