Owen: Little Pea is better than me
Published 25/05/2011 | 12:04
Michael Owen has claimed Javier Hernandez is a better version of him.
Owen is sweating on even getting a place on the bench for Saturday's Champions League final with Barcelona.
After making just two appearances in Europe this season, and an unused substitute on a single other occasion, Owen seems certain to be one of those Premier League title winners who misses out altogether when Sir Alex Ferguson names his squad for the Wembley showpiece.
One of the major reasons for that is the form of Hernandez.
Expected to be a bit-part player initially when he arrived from Mexican outfit Chivas, the 22-year-old has been singled out as the buy of the season by most observers.
His 20 goals have bounced him right into Ferguson's plans this weekend, when the only reason he would be left on the bench was if the United boss felt he needed extra midfield reinforcements.
Owen does not believe Hernandez has the same approach as he had during the early part of his career.
However, as injuries have forced the former Liverpool star to adapt his own game, he feels the similarities are now obvious, except Hernandez is better.
"He is a sharper version of what I am now," said Owen.
"When you buy a player you hope he is going to be a permanent fixture in the team but I don't think anyone could have envisaged it being so soon.
"The instinctiveness of his play inside the box to sniff out chances is impressive and he is a cracking finisher.
"He has played and scored in the World Cup and in a Champions League semi-final, which would suggest he can handle the big stage. That is important at a club like this."
It begs the question why Ferguson would want Owen to remain at Old Trafford given his patchy fitness record and the knowledge Danny Welbeck is returning from an impressive loan spell at Sunderland.
Dimitar Berbatov's recent assertion that he is going nowhere as he enters the final year of his contract does not augur well for Owen's future either, although it is not an issue he wants to press just yet.
"I want to stay because Manchester United is a fantastic club," he said.
"I will be speaking to the manager but his is an important week.
"There is no point discussing my future with him now, but we will have a chat after the season is over."
Owen will need to make sure his choice is correct if he wants to regain his England place.
Fabio Capello never gave the impression of being particularly impressed with the former England man, even when he was having a run of games.
Debate about Owen - currently stranded on 40 goals for his country - has ceased, especially now Andy Carroll has emerged.
However, in a week when 30-year-old Bobby Zamora has been selected for England's Euro 2012 qualifier with Switzerland, and a season when Kevin Davies made his debut, aged 33, Owen refuses to believe his international career is at an end.
"I have given up trying to understand," he said.
"I have not given up on England but it's come to an abrupt stop under this manager.
"I was disappointed for the first squad I missed, a little bit less for the next one and after about three or four times, I didn't really expect to see my name.
"For the last dozen squads, I haven't looked. I don't even think about being picked now.
"It's sad, really. If I keep getting up for something, then I am not in, I am just kidding myself."
Although a single week at the end of May could complete Owen's trophy collection, he does risk failing to fulfil the enormous potential he showed as a teenager with Liverpool, and the 1998 World Cup in particular.
Not that he sees it in the same way as he contemplates a summer of uncertainty.
"You never know what is around the corner," he said.
"When I stared out who would have thought the clubs I would have played for, the places I have been and caps I won for my country.
"I couldn't have planned it any better taking in four great clubs and culminating in playing for a fantastic one like Manchester United.
"The icing on the cake would be winning this final."