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Old 27th September 2011, 17:25   #1
Join Date: Oct 2004
Location: Houston Texas
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Default Owen Hargreaves - Man of Glass

Owen Hargreaves – A Man of Glass?

On Thursday, September 22, stories broke in the UK national newspapers stating that the former Manchester United midfield player, Owen Hargreaves, had suggested that the medical staff at Old Trafford had not managed his medical treatment too well. In fact he was to state; "I've had to be a guinea pig for a lot of these treatments." That quote was picked up as the headline banner by most of the newspapers, and at first glance, looked to be a quote which could embarrass the Manchester United medical staff. It certainly proved to make a major talking point amongst the fans, and at first glance it looked as though Hargreaves was pointing the finger at the club and blaming them for the loss of three years of his career.

At the end of the 2010/11 season, it looked as though Hargreaves’ future was heading for the knacker’s yard. It seemed that Manchester United had finally closed the door on his career at Old Trafford. His contract was up at the end of that season, and despite Hargreaves offering his services to United on a ‘pay as you play’ basis, Sir Alex Ferguson turned him down. It was not surprising. After United paid Bayern Munich the equivalent of 17 million pounds for his transfer, and giving him a four year contract, Hargreaves managed to started in just 26 games, and came off the bench a further 13 times for them.

The warning signs for United were there almost as soon as he arrived at Old Trafford. He made his debut on August 19, 2007 against Manchester City. Including the day on which he made that debut, there was a total of 54 games in all competitions available to him. Of that total he started in 23 games, was named substitute in 11, and missed a further total of 20 games through injury – some 37%. The pattern was, that there was never a period where his name appeared on a United team sheet for more than 5 consecutive games. Season 2007/2008 was to be the most productive season that Manchester United saw from him. In 2008/2009 he was limited to 2 starts and 1 substitute appearance, and in 2009/2010 he was absent for the whole campaign. His last appearance in a United shirt came in the 2010/2011 season against Wolverhampton Wanderers, and as is well documented, lasted some six minutes. There is no doubt that his time at Old Trafford was frustrating as it was for the club.

Hargreaves’ comments in his media interview last week would have readers believe that the whole problem lay with the medical people at Old Trafford. He claimed that various specialists had subsequently told him that United had prescribed ‘the wrong treatment for him’ and that the treatment had made his injuries significantly worse. If this was the case, and he has the evidence to back those claims up, then the question that I would ask is; why hasn’t he sued Manchester United?

Owen Hargreaves was no stranger to the treatment room before he joined United. It might surprise a lot people that during his time with Bayern Munich, he missed 53% of the games that were available for him to play in. In the 2001/2002 season, Hargreaves established himself as a first team regular with the Bavarian team. In all competitions, Bayern will normally play a minimum of 51 games – Bundesliga, Cup, and Champions League. During that first season, Hargreaves made a total of 46 appearances. In 2002/2003 he made 32 appearances; 2003/2004, 38 appearances; 2004/2005, 38 appearances; 2005/2006, 22 appearances, and in 2006/2007, just 11 appearances. So out of a possible 306 appearances, he made a grand total of 162 appearances. His injuries ranged from muscle tears, knee injuries, abductor problems, and of course a broken leg.

It is interesting to note that prior to joining United he had played just 26 games from a possible 102. It’s difficult to see how on earth United could really justify outlaying some 17 million pounds on a player who was obviously more than a little injury prone. Maybe Sir Alex considered it to be a calculated gamble, but it was definitely a gamble that was to backfire, and Bayern Munich must have laughed all the way to the bank!

During his last two years as a Manchester United player, Owen Hargreaves was a virtual stranger to everybody at Old Trafford. Most of that time was spent in the United States, Canada, and Europe as he tried enlisting various specialists to help with his rehabilitation. There must have been a multitude of diagnosis given to him, but how much of it was reported back to United’s medical team? If there were any doubts at all about the treatment which he had been receiving at United, then surely the eminent doctors and surgeons treating him in the various countries, would have reported this, especially as the medical bills would have been paid out from United’s coffers – and they would not have been cheap?

The club spent time, money, and had lots of patience in trying to nurse the player back to full fitness. There is only so much that can be done and as he said, ultimately, a change of scenery was the best solution for all concerned. So Hargreaves hawked his fitness video around a whole host of clubs, and there were several Premier League clubs interested in taking a chance with him. West Bromwich would have been an ideal choice, giving him the regular playing time that he said he really needed. However, Manchester City came along, and although it is almost certain that his playing time at the top level will be minimal at Eastlands, he chose to move across town. Given the vast playing staff which Manchester City employ, and particularly their surfeit of quality midfield players, it is more than difficult to imagine Hargreaves playing regularly in either the Premier League or Champions League competitions. The most he can possibly hope for at best is the Carling Cup competition – and only then if he keeps free of injury – which his record shows to be task that he has never been able to fulfil. Without doubt he is seen to be a Man of Glass.
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