Date:Friday March 28 2008
Fergie spent almost 12 months to persuade Bayern Munich to part with Owen Hargreaves. He played a neat sum for him, too - and now the man whom many tipped to be the most important of our summer signings is only used sparingly, in a squad rotation.
Hargreaves, of course, got the nod for many important games. He excelled at the Emirates and at Anfield, did a heroic job in Lyon but he wasn't picked for the return leg nor for Sunday's clash against Liverpool.
His performance for England in Paris showed again that he's a very, very useful player. I don't think that Fergie can be disappointed with his performances: when Hargreaves did play, he performed as we expected of him, did his job with great efficiency.
Shoring up the midfield is one of the most vital ingredients to success in modern football and we were reminded of it in painful fashion when Milan ripped us apart in the San Siro. Many though that Hargreaves would be the solution to this problem, with his energy, tackling ability and positional sense.
He could still be. But he played a lot less than most people expected. For a long time he was struggling with tendonitis problems that kept him out of the side and did not allow him to settle and gel with his teammates. These troubles now, hopefully, firmly belong to the past but they did not pass unnoticed by Fergie.
Quite simply, I think the boss is concerned with Hargreaves' injury record and would loath to lose him as the crucial games come up. The Champions League is upon us: next Tuesday it's Roma, at the Stadio Olimpico, a very familiar place now.
That fixture, the task ahead is screaming for Hargreaves: Roma's biggest strength is the fantastic movement of their midfielders, namely Aquilani, De Rossi, Pizarro, Perrotta, Mancini and Vucinic (five of them will play) therefore someone who is capable of matching their energy and supplying some tackles must be on the pitch.
After that we have to play Arsenal, Chelsea and if we knock out Roma then most probably it will be Barcelona who block our way. Shall we need an energetic, hard midfielder in these games? Surely.
Fergie might be thinking along the lines that it would be desperately disappointing to lose out on the Champions League trophy because Owen Hargreaves picked up an injury against Fulham or Aston Villa. Therefore, I expect that a fresh and motivated Owen Hargreaves will be a key player for us in these last few weeks of the season.
Date:Friday March 28 2008
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