Manchester United go back to the future with the signing of Owen

Manchester United broke new ground with their “strikerless” or “universal striker” tactics but the signing of Owen will surely see a more orthodox approach.

As one Galactico departs Manchester United, another comes in. The signing of former Real Madrid striker Michael Owen has surprised many; some argue he is past his best or that his specialty of just mere goal poaching is an outdated trade. But for others like Sir Alex Ferguson, Owen’s ability to be at the right place at the right time could prove crucial to United’s quest for a fourth successive title.

If you think about it, the signing wasn’t actually all that unexpected; Owen and Rooney flourished as a partnership for England while Sir Alex has always been an admirer of his talents and he wasn’t going to pass up the opportunity to sign the striker even in his twilight years (Teddy Sheringham, Laurent Blanc and Henrik Larsson are other such examples). If the chance came up to purchase Thierry Henry, you can bet Sir Alex will be the first man on the phone.

But at 29, Michael Owen won’t just be a super sub. He may well start that way; it would be hard to displace Berbatov and Rooney as the first choice front two but as Owen offers something completely different to them, he could may well find himself more often than not in the starting line-up.

In recent seasons, apart from Saha United have not had a out and out striker and that is where their success has lied. In the 2007/08 their ‘strikerless’ system ensured goals from all over the pitch as there wasn’t a fixed player as the highest forward. Owen’s strength is playing on the shoulder of the defender and advancing beyond, but with Ronaldo, Rooney and Tevez, their movement created the dynamism with either one able to beat the last defender. Last season United were slightly more orthodox, especially in the second half of the season with Ronaldo or Tevez as the No. 9 and as a result the side never looked as threatening except on the break.

Michael Owen is more old-fashioned and at a time when strikers are meant to offer more all-round play it is an area where he is left wanting. There has been an almost saturation of the mobile target man while if coaches do want goal poachers, they have to be like Fernando Torres who can not only advance beyond the defender, he harries them and can also hold up the ball. Modern football is about controlling space and for a defender it is easier to marshal a striker who hasn’t got as much in his armoury and therefore requiring greater work from his team mates. However, the signing could mean better team chemistry from United, making them a team-team after ditching the individual in Ronaldo.

Michael Owen’s best work just like Torres’, is done in and around the box and Sir Alex Ferguson will be hoping that his new recruit is the perfect man to kill off such priceless opportunities, be it off the bench or from the start.


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