Owen completes stunning ManU move

MANCHESTER: Michael Owen has joined English champions Manchester United on a two-year contract, the club announced here on Friday, in a remarkable turnaround for the injury-prone striker.

England forward Owen, 29, a free agent after his Newcastle contract expired last week, underwent a medical at a Manchester hospital on Friday before returning to United's Carrington training ground to complete the shock deal.

The move came after the only clubs interested in signing the former Liverpool and Real Madrid striker appeared to be Stoke and Hull - both teams for whom staying in the Premier League is an achievement in itself.

Owen underwent an examination Thursday on the knee injury which sidelined him for much of his time at Newcastle.

Britain's newspapers Saturday could not decide if Owen's surprise move represented another canny swoop by Sir Alex Ferguson -- or a waste of money on an injury-prone player.

"He simply cannot sustain a run of games," the Daily Mail said. "He plays, he gets injured, as an ankle heals, a groin muscle rips. When he returns, a knee ligament goes."

But the Guardian hailed the signing of a "proven poacher" which Old Trafford had lacked since the days of Ruud van Nistelrooy and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

The paper also highlighted Ferguson's history of gambling on players such as Eric Cantona -- who ended up becoming an Old Trafford legend -- and Laurent Blanc.

The Daily Express thought Owen could be used "as a more than useful back-up striker to Wayne Rooney and Dimitar Berbatov and one whose presence buys Ferguson a bit of time while he develops young talents such as Federico Macheda".

Former Arsenal and England striker Ian Wright wrote in the Sun that Owen had seemed to "lose his desire" in recent years.

"He needed a kick up the backside and Alex Ferguson will provide that," Wright wrote. "He is going to United to salvage his career for club and country."

Ferguson, who has seen both Cristiano Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez leave Old Trafford in the close season, insisted signing Owen did not represent a gamble on his part.

"Michael is a world-class forward with a proven goalscoring record at the highest level and that has never been in question," said Ferguson.

"Coming to Manchester United with the expectations that we have is something that Michael will relish."

It has been reported that Ferguson has signed a pay as you play deal with Owen, whose weekly wage at Newcastle was believed to have been as high as 120,000 pounds (197,000 dollars).

Owen, who scored just 10 goals for the Magpies as they were relegated from the Premier League last season, said he'd been as stunned as anyone by United's interest in him.

"I had just begun to talk to other clubs when out of the blue Sir Alex phoned me on Wednesday afternoon, invited me to have breakfast with him next morning during which he told me that he wanted to sign me," Owen revealed.

"I agreed without a moment's thought. This is a fantastic opportunity for me and I intend to seize it with both hands."

He added: "I am now looking forward to being a Manchester United player and I am fortunate that I already know so many of the players here.

"I missed pre-season last year and am pleased that I will be starting at Carrington from day one.

"I want to thank Sir Alex for the faith he has shown in me and I give him my assurance that I will repay him with my goals and performances."

Owen joined Newcastle from Real Madrid in 2005 but his time at St James' Park was blighted by a litany of injuries, including foot, concussion, knee, thigh, groin, ankle and calf problems.

Former Newcastle manager Joe Kinnear, who had to quit the club last season because of heart problems, rarely enjoyed having a fully-fit Owen during his time with the north-east club.

But Kinnear, who made his name as a player in the 1960s with Tottenham, was in no doubt of Owen's quality.

"I like to think I played with one of the best strikers in the world in Jimmy Greaves and Michael has similar attributes," Kinnear told Sky Sports.

"He's a great pro, he's very dedicated, he's a really nice lad and I'm sure Alex will get the best out of him."