MICHAEL Owen has not abandoned all hope of remaining at Manchester United beyond the end of this season.
Owen has made only four appearances this term for the Red Devils, and none since November, as he battled to overcome a thigh problem.
And though Alex Ferguson has spoken optimistically about the impact Owen could have in the title run-in when he does return, his future beyond that is open to extreme doubt.
It was a surprise when Owen was offered an extension to his initial two-year deal last summer and with Danny Welbeck joining Wayne Rooney and Javier Hernandez as regular members of Ferguson's starting line-up, the 32-year-old's chances of playing more regularly appear remote.
Ambitious Championship outfit Brighton expressed an interest in January and there are bound to be plenty of suitors despite Owen's patchy fitness record.
But he has not completely given up on United.
"I know what I want to do," he said.
"If you say certain things they can get misconstrued but I have not lost the passion to be playing more often.
"In life, you have to make hard decisions. I have made some good ones and some bad, but in general terms I am pretty proud of my career.
"I still think I have another two or three years but where that will be is a question that the manager would be better placed to answer.
"I am in exactly the same situation I was last year."
There are some who claim Owen has wasted three valuable years of his career at United, where he was never likely to gain a regular place even if he had stayed fit.
It is not something the forward regrets though.
"Regardless what happens, you will never hear me grumbling about the privilege of playing at a top club like Manchester United," said Owen.
"I have had some cracking moments. I have scored in cup finals, got the winner against Manchester City, scored a hat-trick in the Champions League and won the league."
Owen was speaking at his magnificent Manor House Stables complex in Cheshire where he launched a three-year partnership with Hale-based Trinity Elite, a lifestyle-driven tax, accounting and wealth management specialist.
It has often been suggested that Owen is more interested in horses than football these days, particularly now his partnership with trainer Tom Dascombe is proving so successful.
However, he denies that is the case and in fact states that, even when his playing days are at an end, his career remains in football.
"I can think of nothing worse than being a trainer," he said.
"Tom is fielding phone calls from 200 owners and is up at the crack of dawn.
"I will stay in football in some capacity when I finish, although who knows what capacity that will be."