Owen grabs chance to shine

“I am very satisfied, ” said Michael Owen after scoring twice in the Carling Cup match against Leeds United.-AP

The former England international's performance against Leeds again prompted calls for him to be given a role with the national side, even if it means coming on as an impact player in the closing stages of matches.

Most players with Michael Owen's goal-scoring record would be knocking on the manager's door demanding to know why they weren't being rewarded with more regular appearances.

The former England international was at it again recently, scoring twice in Manchester United's 3-0 victory over rivals Leeds at Elland Road.

Sadly for Owen, it came in the Carling Cup and he knows it will almost certainly not be enough to earn a starting place for United's Barclays Premier League outings.

His two-goal salvo against Leeds took Owen's run to 11 goals in 12 starts, although it could hardly be described as recent form given the sequence began in October 2009.

He seems content with the situation though, and clearly enjoyed the chance to shine in front of a hostile crowd. “I am very satisfied,” he said after the game. “It is great to play in such a good team that is so full of confidence. We killed the game in the first-half. They didn't want to lose by five or six, so they stuck one up front and made it a bit more compact after half-time. We managed to contain them and they hardly had a kick until the last minute. All in all, it was a good night.”

But Owen knows that he cannot expect to start every week. Not when there is so much talent available to manager Sir Alex Ferguson, and when the likes of Wayne Rooney, Javier Hernandez and Danny Welbeck are also in great form.

That the average age of United's starting line-up was older than the one for the victory over Chelsea emphasises the revolution currently under way at Old Trafford.

Ferguson admits he has not been able to give 31-year-old Owen the games he deserves, but it is a task that is only made harder following the return of Welbeck from a hamstring injury.

“Michael Owen's finishing was fantastic,” said Ferguson. “His goal ratio is unbelievable. We are very pleased with him. Unfortunately for us he has had one or two injuries. But with me having Wayne Rooney, Dimitar Berbatov and Javier Hernandez he is not getting the games he deserves and that is unfortunate.”

Owen's performance again prompted calls for him to be given a role with England, even if it means coming on as an impact player in the closing stages of matches.

With his considerable experience of major tournaments, it could be argued that he would be of more use than others with similar hopes of catching Fabio Capello's eye.

But Capello has spoken previously of the need for his players to be playing club football on a regular basis, and it is for that reason that he seemingly remains off the radar.

Owen is certainly not alone in his plight at Old Trafford and Berbatov was making his first start of the season for United at Leeds.

He turned in an eye-catching performance but the Bulgarian's contribution did not come in a manner fans are used to. In the opening minutes, Berbatov twice cleared off the line, helping to provide the platform from which the visitors attacked with venom.

Then, at the end, Berbatov stepped into the central defensive role vacated by cramp-affected debutant Ezekiel Fryers for the final 10 minutes. And how well Berbatov did too, as United kept their third clean sheet of the season.

“Berba can play there,” smiled Owen. “He does it occasionally in training. It was no surprise when he put his hand up and said he would do it.”

Owen does not have that option but his latest goals were a welcome reminder of the talent he still has.

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