After the recent Champions League clash against Valencia, a match that painfully lacked quality in the United midfield, Owen Hargreaves may have realized there’s no better time to put his Manchester United jersey back on. Without Giggs, Scholes or Carrick, the Manchester united midfield looked unimaginative and failed to bring lone striker Dimitar Berbatov into the game. A disappointing start to the premier league season has seen United fall behind Chelsea; more competition for places could be just what the United midfielders need to keep them on their toes and force the best from them.
According to recent reports, Owen Hargreaves could be ready to make his return in less than a month. After two frustrating years on the sidelines it looks as though the worst could finally be over for the £17 million signing. At one point, it appeared that the chronic tendinitis he was suffering from in both knees was leading to an early retirement for the Canadian born star, but it looks like his determination to get back on the field will pay off. Sir Alex has made it clear that should Hargreaves return to fitness there will be no hesitation in pulling him out of his soccer warm ups and back in the squad.
If Hargreaves were to return and re-emulate his previous form and fitness, it could have great implications for the team. Essentially, the return of a fit and confident Owen Hargreaves would be just as good as a new signing (and there haven’t been enough of them to keep United fans happy recently). If Sir Alex is given money to spend in the January transfer window, and Hargreaves has come back to prominence, it would free up more cash for other areas of the team.
But can Hargreaves be expected to return and recapture the form that saw him become England’s player of the year in 2006? Due to the nature of his injury, his biggest challenge will be avoiding a relapse. Regaining match fitness won’t be the hard part; several England teammates commented that he was one of the fittest players they had ever played with in 2006, as a natural athlete he’s reportedly one of the best in the game. Two years out is still a long time though; and it remains to be seen if Hargreaves can match his previous levels.
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Write his significance off at your peril though; almost the entire country was set against him being included in Sven Goran Eriksson’s World Cup 2006 squad due to a string of sub-par performances in warm up games. But when it really counted, Hargreaves delivered the goods; he was one of the best midfielders at the tournament. Fergusson won’t overlook his versatility either; he can fill any role in the midfield and is also comfortable at full back. Simply put the return of Hargreaves could be the best “signing” Manchester United make all season.
Written by Olly Dyson for soccerpro.com