Owen: I have to impress at every opportunity
Michael Owen insists he still has plenty to offer Manchester United after helping to maintain his side's unbeaten run with two goals in a 3-0 win against Leeds in the League Cup third round.
Owen has been restricted largely to a cameo role in his time at Old Trafford, but the former Liverpool and Real Madrid striker underlined his value as a key squad member with a typically clinical double on his first start of the season to help seal a comprehensive victory at Elland Road on Tuesday.
The 31-year-old concedes he would like to be involved more, but admits that such is the competition, he's simply happy to make a contribution whenever the chance comes along. "The pressure is on," he said. "You don't get many chances and then when you do, it can be a couple of months before you see a pitch again if you don't perform.
"You have to prove to yourself and everyone else that you can still perform but we are coming to a stage in the season where the games are coming thick and fast and the games get shared around."
Owen, one of 11 changes made by Sir Alex Ferguson for the Leeds tie, is happy to act as a role model to the club's crop of exciting youngsters, many of who were blooded in the Elland Road romp.
And he insists there are still plenty of miles left in the tank. "I'm trying to be a bit of an example to the youngsters and help them through if they need it," Owen said.
"I'm 31 and I still have a few more years left in me. As for my goals tonight, one was a miss-hit, and the other one was as sweet as I hit them. It was contrasting but it is always nice to score. That's what my game has been about over the years, but it is also nice to contribute in other areas as well."
Ferguson - who revealed injured Mexican forward Javier Hernandez hopes to return in the UEFA Champions League against Basle next week - admits Owen has been unlucky not to be involved more. "Michael's goal ratio per game is unbelievable," Ferguson said. "We have several strikers here, with Wayne Rooney, Javier Hernandez and Dimitar Berbatov and several others, and he does not get the games he deserves which is unfortunate. But he is a good player to have around."
Ryan Giggs sealed victory with the third goal before half-time on an evening marred by pre-match skirmishes between rival supporters, and a series of unsavoury chants from the 3,000 travelling fans in an at-times poisonous atmosphere in a 31,000 crowd. Leeds inflicted a surprise FA Cup defeat on United at the start of 2010, but the Championship promotion challengers never looked remotely likely to spring another shock.
Simon Grayson, the Leeds manager, admitted: "Maybe one or two individuals got carried away by the occasion and did not do the things they have been in recent weeks that have been successful.
"We need to make sure that whatever we achieve in the future, we progress game by game. We need to learn from this experience. I'm disappointed we didn't put on a performance, but you have to give credit to Manchester United."