Owen confident of playing time
Michael Owen expects to be given plenty of chances to impress for Manchester United over the forthcoming months after opening his account for the season with two goals in the Carling Cup at Scunthorpe last night.
The former England striker netted twice in the second half at Glanford Park as the defending champions progressed to the fourth round with a 5-2 win. Prior to last night, Owen had managed only 46 minutes of action since the Community Shield in August, less than Mexican youngster Javier Hernandez, while it was Federico Macheda to whom Sir Alex Ferguson turned with United level at 2-2 against Liverpool last weekend.
All three started at Scunthorpe in a team that showed 11 changes from the line-up that faced their bitter rivals, and it was Owen who made the biggest impact. Although Ferguson was not at the ground having chosen to watch next week's UEFA Champions League opponents Valencia instead, Owen's efforts did not go unnoticed.
Assistant manager Mike Phelan, placed in charge for the night, said: "Michael Owen did exceptionally well and showed what a top, top player he is. I thought he contributed to everything and he covered the ground extremely well."
Owen's future at Old Trafford has been called into question in recent weeks, with the former Liverpool player reportedly unhappy at his lack of playing time. The 30-year-old, though, expects that to change now the season is in full swing.
He said: "It's been a strange start to the season. We've played weekend-weekend-weekend and then into a double-header international break so the manager's kept a similar team through those three games.
"Subsequently there's been a lot of us that haven't played in the first month of the season but now the Champions League's started, the League Cup's started and there's Premier League games all the time so I'd like to think there's going to be plenty of games coming thick and fast. People make a lot of different situations but there's a lot of us in the same boat that haven't had many minutes.
"It's a difficult juggling act for the manager because he's got young kids that he wants to bring through and learn a thing or two, then there's players that have been injured coming back into the action and players that need the games that have been fit, so it's par for the course at Manchester United. But it's a bit false at the minute because there have been so few games."
Owen netted the equaliser in United's 2-1 win over Aston Villa in last season's Carling Cup final but it was a bittersweet occasion as he picked up the hamstring injury that ruled him out for the rest of the campaign. It was the striker's third League Cup triumph after two victories with former club Liverpool, and his chances of a fourth success - and a third in a row for United - were boosted by defeats for Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester City last night.
Owen added: "I've won it three times, it's been a good competition for me, and obviously Manchester United have won it for the last two years. Looking at the results, there's a lot of big teams that have gone out so it's a satisfying result for us."
Another player given a chance yesterday was Portuguese striker Bebe, who made his United debut off the bench with 16 minutes left. The 20-year-old, signed from Vitoria Guimaraes for £7million this summer despite Ferguson never having seen him play, showed a glimpse of his potential with a run and fierce shot.
Phelan told MUTV: "The scoreline gave us the opportunity to give Bebe a little look at what Manchester United's all about. I thought he responded very well. There were fleeting moments of pace and power, and he got a little bit excited now and again. But it's important that players like him get these opportunities."