A clearly disappointed Owen Hargreaves wants to have showdown talks with Sir Alex Ferguson after being axed from both the Manchester United and England squads. The midfielder is due on United’s pre season tour of America and Mexico in July but before that he wants to know the extent of Ferguson’s part in him being left out of England’s 30 man World Cup squad after initially being named in it.
He also wants to know why he was not even given a sub’s spot for the club’s final game of the season at home to Stoke. Hargreaves made a one minute appearance as a sub in the penultimate game with Sunderland then stormed away from Old Trafford 50 minutes before kick off against Stoke after discovering he was not in the squad. He was hoping to play some part in a bid to prove to England coach Fabio Capello that he was fit to be named in his initial squad.
As it was, Capello already had him penned in, having had Canadian born Hargreaves’ medical records assessed following nearly two years out for operations on both knees. Yet that was before Capello spoke to United boss Ferguson on Monday of last week at a League Managers’ Association dinner in London.
Ferguson is understood to have told Capello that Hargreaves was still a long way off playing at the highest level. The following day the Italian reversed his decision to include Hargreaves and reinstated ankle ligament victim Gareth Barry. Sir Alex has been patient with 29 year old Hargreaves who has only started 25 games since joining the club for £17million in May 2007.
Earlier this season Ferguson was angry that there seemed to be more attention on his then injured midfielder getting fit for England than for his own club. Ferguson said “Hargreaves owes us now, he has to think of his club not his country”. Hargreaves was voted England’s best player in the last World Cup yet Sir Alex says there was no chance that he could have gone to this year’s finals after so long out and so little football insisting “Owen has not had enough football, it was that simple. You couldn’t possibly have picked him”
The whole two year episode with Hargreaves’ injuries has obviously been a highly frustrating one for both Sir Alex and the player. Ferguson has not generally been known to stand in the way of his players representing their countries although he made it clear to Wayne Rooney that it would have been better for him not to play for England in the recent friendly against Egypt. As it turned out, his advice was very close to the mark
Hargreaves’ disappointment at not going to the South Africa is also perfectly understandable having put so much effort into getting so close to being fit. Yet having missed nearly two full seasons of any type of football, it would have been one hell of an ask for him to compete on an equal footing against the world’s best.
Ferguson also feels Gary Neville was left out after his own injury problems over the last two years adding “I’m sure that Fabio took Gary’s injury problems into consideration” He also believes that Capello was right to try and entice Paul Scholes out of retirement but was not surprised his midfielder said no six years after quitting the international stage. Sir Alex admitted “I wasn’t surprised by Paul’s decision, I think Fabio did the right thing but Paul is established in his family life and I don’t think it was a goal for him. Paul spoke to me about it and I told him to go with his gut instinct. His gut instinct was to stay put”
United’s nine stars going to the World Cup are Wayne Rooney, Rio Ferdinand, Michael Carrick (England); Patrice Evra (France); Nemanja Vidic, Zoran Tosic (Serbia); Nani (Portugal); Ji-Sung Park (South Korea) and new signing Chicharito (Mexico). Ferguson claims that he would be delighted if any of them came back with a winners medal “Everyone at the club would be very proud, I think they will all do well”
Was Hargreaves fit enough to compete in a World Cup?