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Owen Hargreaves – Made of Glass or Different Class?

Owen Hargreaves scores!I’ll admit it. When it was first announced that we were splashing out around £18 million on the injury prone and rather ordinary but industrious Owen Hargreaves I was a little baffled to say the least.

Let’s face facts. Hargreaves arrived at United having spent his fair share of time in the physio’s room at Bayern Munich, most notably breaking his leg during his final season with the German club in September 2006. At the end of the day he didn’t score goals (five in nearly 150 games for Bayern), he wasn’t a creative player and other than his work rate I didn’t see what he brought to the table.

Even our very own RedRanter had his doubts over Hargreaves and particularly his fitness. And to know that Ferguson was willing to part with £18 million too, well it just didn’t add up.

I sit here now putting together this article a few hours before we take on FC Porto in arguably the biggest game of the season. My prediction? 2-1 United but that is coming firmly from the heart. If I’m realistic and go with my head, a trip to the Estadio Dragao (where coincidentally no English team has ever won) with our current defensive frailties really doesn’t bode well. Let’s be honest. If the Portuguese side play anywhere near as well as they did at Old Trafford and we put on a similarly uninspirational performance, it’s game over in the Champions League for this season.

You’ve probably guessed where I’m going with this (if the title wasn’t already a giveaway!) but the one player I feel we desperately miss at the moment is a certain Owen Hargreaves. I’m trying my utmost not to get caught in the ‘look how Essien handled Gerrard last week’ trap here but it really is my honest opinion that Hargreaves would have helped stem the tide of the current slump we are witnessing. In all fairness it is difficult to explain how we have conceded 11 goals in five games when VDS was breaking clean sheet records left, right and centre earlier in the season. I believe you would almost halve that amount with Hargreaves in front of the back four.

Porto were brilliant last week in their own little way and as much as we were off the pace, the way they counter-attacked was sublime at times. So how do you counter a counter-attack? Well with Hargreaves in the side he would have happily provided cover for the likes of Evra, Neville and O’Shea who all galloped forward at different stages of the match, often to our detriment. Hargreaves would have read the danger, cut out those little pockets of space and I believe his presence in the side would have gone some way to destabilising the threat of our Portuguese opponents.

As hard-working, bullish and, at times, brilliant Darren Fletcher has been this season, he isn’t one to just sit and hold to free up others to bomb on forward. I noticed Michael Carrick has often adopted the holding role in recent times and purely through necessity rather than anything else. As we all know Carrick is at his creative best when he is given the freedom to influence a game and dictate the flow and pace of it with his passing ability. I hate to say it but look at the system the dippers have in place with Alonso and Mascherano. It has had proven results and the Spaniard is having a good season it must be said.

More often than not we are making basic errors at the moment and with Hargreaves’ tenacity and hard-working style that may have helped us get the basics right again. The England man won’t be back until the start of next season at the earliest which could prove to be a blow to our trophy aspirations for the remainder of the current campaign.

We may go to the Dragao and smash Porto tonight but at this present time I can’t wait for Owen Hargreaves to pull on a Red shirt once again. Can you?



  1. Grognard

    April 16, 2009 at 5:16 pm

    @Craig Mc: You miss the point about Nani. I thought he did well in the last 15 minutes and other’s like Liam were letting him have it. All I am saying is I could have used your support for the Lil Man against this wave of unfounded negativity.

    And saying that I am in the Arsenal camp hurts mate. The fact that I do not put blinders on and that I respect or fear our opponents does not mean my allegiance has changed. 🙁

  2. Grognard

    April 16, 2009 at 5:21 pm

    @Craig Mc: Rooney was decent but Ronaldo was by far the man of the match. Ronaldo is the straw that stirs the drink. We are a middle of the table team without him. Despite all the things that are irritating about him, he is one of the three best players this team has ever had and he is the best or second best player in the world. In that category Rooney probably wouldn’t be in the top 20. And remember, I like Rooney….a lot.

  3. Grognard

    April 16, 2009 at 5:24 pm

    @Stephen: So much of the decision making Fergie is forced to make is because he doesn’t have an adequate player to put at the LW/LMF spot and therefore he continues to sacrifice Rooney to the wing and move Ronaldo around accordingly. If you had a Silva or Ribery or Marin on the wing, he would be more willing to play Rooney behind the main striker where he belongs. As deep a team as we are, in Fergie’s eyes we are short in some areas.

  4. Grognard

    April 16, 2009 at 5:31 pm

    @Matt: Nice fantasy. At 31 he could give us 5 or 6 sure seasons of excellence but I bet anything Fergie hasn’t even thought about it. He seems very satisfied with EVDS and seems content on settling for Foster afterwards. Personally, I would not be surprised to see Chelsea sign Buffon. They have the money and they need a keeper because Cech has clearly lost it. Nothing worse than seeing a keeper go gun shy.

  5. Grognard

    April 16, 2009 at 5:35 pm

    @Dan: I agree. I have never bought into the argument that he was the best. For me up until he retired at the beginning of this season, the best was still Ollie Kahn. But other than that, I think Casillas is better (even though he too is overrated), Adler, Neuer, Akinfeev, Frey and until recently Boruc. Boruc’s personal troubles have affected his game but as soon as he is over the marital turmoil, hopefully he will regain his focus and be back to his top ranking. I also have a lot of respect Malafeev of Zenit and the Inter keeper who is a great shot stopper but who struggles a bit with crosses.

  6. Grognard

    April 16, 2009 at 5:43 pm

    @Karl: Berbatov’s ball control is great but what does it bring us? Nothing. Ball control is great if you use it as an advantage to turn and score or to lay off a beautiful pass that opens up a chance for somebody else. With Berbatov it usually leads to a back pass that takes away the treat or a double team that dispossess him. It’s not always his fault. I feel his teammates don’t work hard enough around him to get open or find space inside a defense to help him out. You are no threat if you have great first touch and ball control skills when they always happen outside the box and you are always facing your own keeper. Berbatov lacks aggressiveness. Yesterday I remember two occasions where the ball came to him in an ideal position just at the top of the box. Had it been Kiko Macheda or any truly goal poaching player he would have taken the ball, made a sharp turn and had a shot on goal which would have been threatening. Instead he made two back passes that took the ball to midfield and killed the threat. This is not the same player who played for Spurs. A languid as he is, he was a much more aggressive and hungry player for them. If he didn’t score himself he would deliver beautiful passes into the box for others to take a shot. But with united nobody ever gets into a good enough position for a shot and so his only option is to back pass because he clearly has no confidence to take a shot. And when he did take a shot, it was a poor one and he had Ronaldo open for a sitter. Go figure! 🙄

  7. NicoQB

    April 16, 2009 at 6:09 pm

    @Traverse: @Karl: Actually, only one person here was bashing Anderson, it’s just that he’s very loud!!! 😆

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