Despite emerging as one of England's standout players, Owen Hargreaves has never played league soccer in England.
Now the 26-year-old midfielder hopes his experience from playing a decade in Europe will help Manchester United defend its league title and win a coveted Champions League trophy. "The Premier League is a very unique league, it is played at such a high pace," Canadian-born Hargreaves said Monday after being officially presented by the club. "I look forward to adapting as soon as possible to the style of play."
Hargreaves signed in May from Bayern Munich, which he joined as a 16-year-old, and was presented along with fellow newcomer Nani from Sporting Lisbon.
"I've always wanted and expected I would play in England, I just never expected it would be via Germany," Hargreaves said. "I had the opportunity to play Champions League football for seven seasons and those are the experiences a lot of players wouldn't have had playing in England."
And Hargreaves will now be a key asset as United sets its aim on a Champions League title, manager Alex Ferguson said. "Last season was the third (Champions League) semifinal we've failed in and we don't like that. I think we should have been doing better," said Ferguson, whose team also lost May's FA Cup final to Chelsea.
"(Hargreaves) brings real speed to the midfield and real energy," Ferguson said. "Playing for seven years in the Bundesliga brings us a different type of experience."
Playing abroad, Hargreaves struggled for years to find support from England fans. But they voted him player of the year in 2006 after a strong performance in the World Cup _ thanks largely to the continued confidence from then-England manager Sven-Goran Eriksson. "I appreciate (Eriksson's) support in me along the way when other people possibly at times didn't agree," Hargreaves said. "He showed faith in me because he believed in me as a player and I tried to repay that back at the World Cup."
But he won't extend that gratitude to upcoming Premier League clashes with rival Manchester City, where Eriksson is now the manager.
"They are two very different clubs and the ambitions of both clubs are very different so I think Man United is in a league of its own," Hargreaves said. "Obviously him joining City there is great potential, but obviously there's a lot ahead of im." Hargreaves is expected to partner with Michael Carrick in central midfield, as well as providing cover to the defense. "Every player brings his qualities and mine are in the defensive midfield area," he said. "Hopefully I can win some tackles, keep a clean sheet for the back four and get the ball to the fantastic offensive players."