Amidst an injury crisis at Old Trafford that sees 11 players on the sidelines, one player you wouldn’t expect to see ready to step up to bolster the team is supposedly ready to do exactly that.
Owen Hargreaves has played the grand total of six minutes and forty seconds of first-team football since being substituted at Stamford Bridge in September 2008. His comeback match against Wolves on November 6th 2010 last just over five minutes before the midfielder tore his hamstring. Every United fan that day was subjected to the anguish of seeing one of the country’s premier technical players once more succumb to injury and the 70 minute “performance” from his replacement, Bebe.
The relationship between Sir Alex Ferguson and Hargreaves is believed to be non-existent, with the United manager supposedly feeling great disdain for the 30-year-old midfielder. Ferguson believes that Hargreaves has been fit numerous times but refused to declare it despite the opinions of the medical staff.
The medical staff’s opinion however is something that Hargreaves himself has no time for because he feels that time and again they have misdiagnosed and mistreated his injuries. This is supposedly the reason why the player goes abroad for treatment rather than stay in England. Why the medical staff never confronted the problem in the first place is mystifying when United’s essential fanzine Red Issue reported as far back as late-2007 that Hargreaves’ knee troubles were not a recurring injury, but rather the incurable tendonitis that it has turned out to be. The world’s foremost knee surgeon, Richard Steadman described his knees as “the worst he has ever seen.”
In March 2010 Hargreaves made a return to action for the reserves and completed 45 minutes with seemingly no problems. However the player was in excruciating pain and it was reported that he could barely walk for the next week. He wouldn’t feature for the first-team until an injury-time cameo away at Sunderland in May.
In his first season with the club, Hargreaves was an integral part of the team that won a League and European Cup double. His central midfield partnership with Anderson looked set to be United’s first-choice for years to come after magnificent performances away at Arsenal and Liverpool. He scored a vital winner at Old Trafford in the home game against Arsenal that extinguished their title challenge once and for all as well as a penalty in the Champions League final shootout against Chelsea.
There is a revisionist belief that all of United’s defeats in the past few seasons could have been avoided if the combative midfielder was in the team. While this can be written off due to the fact that United lost numerous games even with Hargreaves in the 2007/08 season – Manchester City and Bolton for example, you can’t help but feel his presence would’ve led to different outcomes in fixtures, namely the last two games at Anfield.
After the Wolves debacle Hargreaves’ career at United was written off as all but over, with his contract set to expire at the end of the season and exclusion from the team’s Champions League squad but once more he has given a glimmer of hope to the supporters. It’s believed that the club will offer him a ‘pay as you play’ deal as an incentive for the midfielder to prove himself.
As for the here and now he has been in training for a week, and while the rumours that he could appear in the squad to face Bolton were just that, there is a feeling that he has a genuine chance to make a contribution to United’s title charge.
Owen Hargreaves’ MUFC statistics:
United appearances: 39 (26 starts, 13 sub apps)
United goals: 2