Michael Owen’s predatory instincts are still intact. That’s the message he sent after scoring the winning goal on his Manchester United debut.
The 29-year-old striker came on as a second-half substitute in United’s opening game of their Asia tour and pounced on a loose ball with five minutes left after Ryan Giggs had been tackled in the penalty area.
His decisive finish handed the team a 3-2 victory over a tough Malaysian XI after Wayne Rooney and Nani had put them two goals in front.
“You train for weeks in preparation for that all-important first game and to score on your debut feels great,” said Owen, who joined the club this month on a two-year deal after his contract at relegated Newcastle expired.
His move to Old Trafford was met with scepticism by some after a series of injuries robbed the former Liverpool and Real Madrid star of the lightening pace that had been such a crucial part of his armour.
But he is optimistic that he can forge a successful partnership with Rooney and Dimitar Berbatov and confident Saturday’s goal will be the first of many.
“It’s always nice to get off the mark, not just when you join a new club but any time,” he told the club website.
“I was sat chatting to Wayne (Rooney) in the dressing room afterwards and he feels the same way after getting off the mark for the season.
“It’s obviously doubly good for me with it being my first goal for the club, and even though it won’t really count in the grand scheme of things, it does make you feel better. Hopefully I can score a lot more.”
Sir Alex Ferguson has handed Owen the club’s famous number seven shirt, worn by star players such as George Best, Eric Cantona, David Beckham and Cristiano Ronaldo.
He said Owen had enough experience to handle any baggage that may accompany the honour.
“It’s been worn by high-profile players at our club over the years,” Ferguson, who saw both Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez leave Old Trafford in the close season, said Sunday.
“But Michael is a high-profile player and he has the experience to handle that honour.
“Not all our players would relish that challenge but it was no problem for him. And it was an easy decision for me.”
Ferguson took a big gamble in hiring Owen, with Hull and Stoke the only other clubs showing any interest, but judging by the manner in which he executed his goal it could be a punt that pays off.
“It was a typical Michael Owen goal,” he said.
“When Ryan went through the first man to react to Ryan’s penetration was Michael. It’s a good start for him.
“Michael is different to the other strikers we have here,” he added.
“He’s always searching for that space in and around the box and he reacted really well to take his goal.”
United play Malaysia in Kuala Lumpur again on Monday in a hastily arranged game to replace their match in Jakarta which was called off after the hotel they were due to stay in was bombed Friday in suicide attacks that left at least eight dead and over 50 injured.