Owen scores winner on Man Utd debut

KUALA LUMPUR: Michael Owen got his Manchester United career off to a flyer on Saturday when he scored the winner on his debut as the Premier League champions struggled past a Malaysian XI 3-2.

The former Newcastle and England striker, who moved to Old Trafford on a free transfer this month, came on as a substitute for Wayne Rooney after 60 minutes with the score at 2-2 and made the most of his chance.

Wearing the club's famous number seven shirt, he pounced with five minutes left, picking up the ball just inside the box and rounding the goalkeeper before planting a right foot shot into the net.

It dug United out of a hole after they let a two goal lead, courtesy of Rooney and Nani, slip.

Goalkeeping errors let the home team back in the game, with Amri Yahyah capitalising both times.

"At 2-0 we were in a very nice position but the goal they got galvanised them and they gave us a real battle," admitted United coach Sir Alex Ferguson.

"But I'm happy with what we did, it was out first game and we needed that type of game to get us going."

He added that the winning goal was a typical Owen strike and one that didn't surprise him.

"It was a typical Michael Owen goal. When Ryan (Giggs) went through the first man to react was Owen. It was a good start for him."

Ferguson brought a 22-man squad to Asia and said ahead of the game he would start with his best 11 -- and it didn't include Owen.

Instead, Rooney and Dimitar Berbatov led the attack with the promising Darron Gibson wide on the right and Nani on the left.

Paul Scholes and Anderson were in the middle while Rio Ferdinand took the captain's armband ahead of Gary Neville.

Joining him in defence was Patrice Evra, Johnny Evans and John O'Shea, with Edwin Van Der Sar in goal.

Rooney had the first chance when he forced a fine save from goalkeeper Farizal Marlias after just two minutes with Evans also going close with a header from the resulting corner.

The breakthrough came on seven minutes when Gibson sent the ball over from the right and Berbatov's shot was saved by Marlias only for Rooney to pick up the rebound for an easy tap in.

Rooney was in the thick of the action and nearly made it 2-0 a minute later when his shot was tipped over the bar.

United though were clearly rusty and missed the flair of Cristiano Ronaldo, with passes going astray and Malaysia being given too much room.

Despite this, United doubled their lead on 27 minutes after Rooney timed a pass perfectly to Nani who slotted the ball home with his left foot from close range.

But complacency crept in as half-time neared and Van Der Saar was caught napping by Yahyah who cleverly lobbed the ball over the Dutchman's head from 30 yards to set the crowd alight.

Ben Foster replaced him for the second half but fared no better, committing a schoolboy error when he failed to clear a back pass, which Yahyah pounced on to draw Malaysia level after 52 minutes.

It prompted Ferguson to make four substitutions with Owen, Wes Brown, Zoran Tosic and Fabio all coming on.

The match looked headed for a draw before Owen worked some of his old magic to get their pre-season off on the right foot.