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Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The curious case of Owen Hargreaves

Articles have been circulating ever since last weeks England squad announcement about the part played by Sir Alex Ferguson in the dropping of England's best player at the last World Cup.Both the Sun's article and Telegraph's article  claim that Sir Alex was instumental in convincing Mr Capello to change his mind and not pick Owen in his 30 man world cup squad, even though he has made a "partial" return to fitness having play a half in the reserves, and stoppage time against Sunderland.

Mr Capello had looked to Owen to provide cover for Gareth Barry, and possibly start games later on, given Hargreaves natural talents and affinity to the world stage. Having been the only player to successfully convert his penalty in the quater final loss to the Portugese in 06, his confidence from 12 yards and calm demeanor under pressure would have been greatly needed in the later stages of the tournament England fancy themselves to be finalists in.That said, 45 minutes of Premier Reserve League North and 45 to 60 seconds of a 'finished" Premier League game is not enough match practice for a World Cup, whoever the player, whatever their quality.

For many  of the  United faithful, the "club > country" motto has depicted their loyalties accurately, with players showing or verbalizing similar traits and beliefs held highest amongst the pantheon of Old Trafford legends. That said, players who love playing for their country are not judged by it, with the international careers of Rooney, Brown, Carrick,Foster, Owen and Hargreaves,( not to mention the foreigners, and the youngsters) being actively encouraged, as long as they return to Carrington without injury. It is here where we come to what I perceive to be Sir Alex's greatest worry. After 17 months out with injury, I don't think Sir Alex, and the men who pay his wages, want Owen Hargreaves going to South Africa, without his specialist physiotherapists and outside the club's insurance and attempt to play in a climate that even the most match fit players will potentially struggle to play 90 minutes in.

I can see why Owen would be disappointed, he thought he could make the dream return, and help his nation win the world cup, but as Sir Alex put it last December, " He's our player first, we've waited a long time for him, he owes us a few games service".

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