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Ferguson: Owen may start ahead of Rooney

(GSM) – Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson may start Michael Owen in this afternoon’s Carling Cup final ahead of Wayne Rooney. Ferguson also said he believes it is not too late for the striker to force his way into Fabio Capello’s World Cup plans.

Ferguson is happy with Owen after the England striker came on as a substitute for Manchester United in midweek and scored a goal against West Ham.

“He has done well here, he has been a success,” Ferguson says. “He’s a great professional, he’s never missed a training session, his performances in training have been very good, and I think he has improved as a footballer in his time here.

“His general knowledge of the game is better, so is his linking play, and for the first time in his career he is getting used to coming on as a sub. I think he’s enjoying being a part of it here and he’ll definitely be here next season because I have absolutely no intention of letting him go. The only problem Owen has got at the moment is Wayne Rooney. We’re getting incredible performances from Rooney at the moment, and Michael has come here at a time when another striker, and sometimes the only one we use, is on the rise.”

Ferguson wants to change a few faces of his team in order to field fresh legs in United’s Champions League clash against Milan.

“The Carling Cup final selection will be a little bit trickier because I’m going to have to make two or three changes. Wembley is a tiring pitch – it’s a tiring occasion, actually. And you have to think there’s a possibility of extra time. I’m looking at Owen as a possible change. He took his goal against West Ham well, timing his run between defenders. If you watch it again you’ll notice that he stops and goes again to make sure he stays onside. It was a typical Owen goal, and the more he shows he can still do that the more chance he has got of joining up with England again. I know that’s at the back of his mind.” said the Red Devils’ boss

Owen has stated on various occasions that representing England at the World Cup is his priority and Ferguson understands that it has been hard for the striker as he has not been playing regularly. However, Ferguson still thinks Owen has the time to prove his credentials and go to South Africa with Capello’s England squad.

“It’s going to be difficult for Fabio to pick him when he’s not been playing regularly, I understand that completely,” Ferguson says. “I was hoping he would get more regular games so that he could put his England credentials right in front of Fabio, though it hasn’t worked out that way. But there’s still three months of the season left and you would still think that a player of his ability has it in him to grasp a chance.

“Getting used to playing as sub may be an advantage in the long term. Even though he’s not figuring a lot for us, he’s still the one player you would want on your bench if you need to make a change with 15 minutes to go in a World Cup quarter-final. That has to be in your thinking. It’s going to be difficult for him to get to South Africa I know, it’s a big ask to pick a player who is not playing, but I don’t need to tell Fabio how to do his job. He’s an experienced manager who knows what he wants and he knows what striking options are available.”

Sun 28 February, 2010
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