Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Owen Is So Vital for United-Fight Who Must to Keep Him; Magpies Legend Beardsley Says Star Striker Can Be the Driving Force in Avoiding Drop into the Championship

Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Owen Is So Vital for United-Fight Who Must to Keep Him; Magpies Legend Beardsley Says Star Striker Can Be the Driving Force in Avoiding Drop into the Championship

Article excerpt

Byline: By MARK DOUGLAS

MICHAEL OWEN must be the first name on Chris Hughton's team-sheet for the game against Chelsea - and United must pull out all the stops to keep hold of their "icon" this summer.

That is the opinion of Toon legend Peter Beardsley, who sees a fully fit and fired-up Owen as the key factor in staving off the 'disaster' scenario of United dropping into the Championship.

Owen was axed by Hughton for the Arsenal game as United's caretaker coach gambled on Peter Lovenkrands and Obafemi Martins - and has had to contend with more accusations that his international career is over this week.

Fabio Capello has not picked Owen for an England squad for a year and, although former team-mate Steven Gerrard said the players "miss him", he looks to be well short of the form that made him such an important player for club and country.

Hughton did call for Owen in the second half against Arsenal but his impact was minimal - he touched the ball just 17 times in more than half-anhour on the pitch.

Owen has been written off before and bounced back, however, and Beardsley believes he will prove the legions of doubters wrong again - provided he is given the chance during United's run-in.

"I think he's so important, he's someone who gets goals and that is what sets teams apart at this stage of the season. Michael always looks like he's going to score goals when he is given those chances," Beardsley said.

"If he gets one or two chances in a game, I'd be willing to bet that he'd score one of them.

"He's a natural finisher - and that's something you can't coach. He's like Alan Shearer - he'll always be in the right place at the right time.

"I look at goals like the one against Sunderland last season when he came in behind Paul McShane - no-one else would have scored that kind of goal. He was so bright, so alert.

"Michael should never, ever be criticised by any fan of this football club. He didn't choose to be injured, he got injured playing for England and the club got well compensated for that.

"Whatever Michael Owen does for this club is more than good enough for me.

"He's the perfect role model for this club and this city, he never gets involved in any controversy, he's a leader.

"Just because he doesn't rant and rave it doesn't mean he's not a 'proper' captain or a proper leader."

Regardless of whether Newcastle are in the top division, Owen looks set to exit the club this summer when his contract expires, but Beardsley wants

United to make every effort to keep him.

At the moment, that scenario looks unlikely with Owen's advisors believed to regard upwardly mobile Manchester City as his best option.

Beardsley, however, believes United will try again to sell him a vision of where the club is heading if they survive their relegation battle. …

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