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Sunday, July 5, 2009

Owen seals shock United switch

LONDON (AP) Michael Owen joined English champion Manchester United on a two-year contract Friday, a striking reversal of fortunes for an injury-plagued striker who had been consigned to the England scrapheap by Fabio Capello.

The 29-year-old Owen was a free agent after his contract with relegated Newcastle expired, but said he did not see United as a potential destination until being phoned by manager Alex Ferguson on Wednesday.

"I never though it in my wildest dreams really — when I got the call from the manager to come and meet him it was a shock," Owen said. "I know there will be a few people saying the manager shouldn't have bought me."

Owen's agent had been so concerned about finding him a new club that he sent a 32-page brochure to clubs around Europe trumpeting his qualities and rebutting fitness fears.

Though the likes of Wigan and Blackburn had dismissed the former Real Madrid and Liverpool player as past his prime, Ferguson is willing to take — as United's official Web site says — a calculated gamble.

"Michael is a world class forward with a proven goalscoring record at the highest level," Ferguson said. "That has never been in question,"

Ferguson needed another scorer to link up with Wayne Rooney and Dimitar Berbatov after Cristiano Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez both left Old Trafford last month. Only Ecuador winger Antonio Valencia has so far joined from Wigan.

After Owen discussed the move over breakfast with Ferguson on Thursday, he underwent stringent medical examinations on his troublesome right knee before the contract was signed.

"My fitness is high," the 2001 European player of the year said. "A lot is made out of it but I certainly don't feel like I'm injury prone."



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