Owen reveals his England pain
LONDON: Michael Owen has hinted for the first time at the true depth of his frustration at being cast into the shadows by England manager Fabio Capello.
Owen has been consistently ignored by Capello since the Italian took charge and will once again be at home in Cheshire when England play Egypt in Wednesday's World Cup warm-up.
For nearly two years Owen has maintained a dignified silence over his international exile, but the mask slipped for just a moment in the aftermath of Sunday's bittersweet 2-1 League Cup final win against Aston Villa.
After spending much of the season as a bit-part player with United, Owen was handed a rare moment in the spotlight as he started ahead of Wayne Rooney at Wembley.
He seemed determined to seize the opportunity and rolled back the years with an effervescent display capped by a superb 13th minute strike to cancel out James Milner's early penalty.
With Capello watching from the stands, Owen had proved he still has the ability to make his mark on the game's grandest stages.
Yet before the half was over, Owen's day had taken an all too familiar turn as he pulled up with a hamstring injury.
Suddenly it was easy to see why Capello isn't prepared to risk gambling on such a fragile player and Owen must have know his faint hopes of going to South Africa were over.
Perhaps that was behind his revealing response when he was asked if he felt his England chances had taken another blow.
"I've said many times it's difficult for me to talk about it or find the right words because one slip of the tongue and I'm going to be on the back page," he said.
"If I said what I think or how I feel...I would only be lying to you if I spoke about England so there is no point in asking, put it that way.
"I didn't even know the England manager was watching. I just wanted to play well and win the trophy."
After such a day of conflicting emotions, Owen could be forgiven for being in combative form when he faced reporters following the match.
Owen admitted the injury is likely to keep him out for several weeks but he insisted he has no regrets about making the move to Old Trafford.
"It's not been difficult to accept my role here. I would like to play a lot more obviously but you try getting in the team with Wayne Rooney playing like this!" he said.
"If Wayne hadn't have been scoring two or three in every game then the manager might have rotated a bit more and I would have got more games, so there is no way I am unhappy with my decision or how things have gone.
"Out of 43 games we've played this year I have been involved in 42. No-one had been writing about injuries for a good while but everyone will have a field day again now.
"I've played at teams that have not been doing well in the league and I would prefer to play a lesser role if I can play and train with real top-level players every day. Then when you do play you are playing in a game like this.
"Obviously it's a little sour note me having to come off and being out for a few weeks but I suppose that can't disguise the pleasure you get from scoring, winning and picking up the trophy. It's days like that you remember for the rest of your career."
Although Owen will miss a portion of United's title run-in and Champions League challenge, he hopes to be back in time to play a role in the decisive final matches.
"The season is not over and there's everything to play for. I'm not a doom monger. There are plenty of people who want to put a negative spin on things, but I'm too long in the tooth and have seen it all before," he said.
"There are plenty of big games coming up, I've just had a child the other day, I've got four kids and I'm playing for one of the biggest teams in Europe.
"It's not all doom and gloom is it? I've got every reason to have a smile on my face."