Pool race against time to get Owen fit for United clash

LIVERPOOL are facing a race against time to get top scorer Michael Owen fit for tomorrow’s lunchtime showdown at Manchester United.

Owen, who has scored 22 goals for Liverpool this season and is in the middle of a hot streak of seven in his last 10 club and England matches, is having intensive treatment to get him fit for the Old Trafford crunch.

The majority of Liverpool’s stars who had been playing for their countries throughout Europe on Wednesday did not report for training until late yesterday.

But Owen had been at their Melwood training ground much earlier in the day for intensive treatment with physio Dave Galley.

Owen had limped out of England’s 2-0 win over Turkey at Sunderland on Wednesday, with what looked like a leg injury but turned out to be a damaged back.

All a Liverpool spokesman would say was: “he’s having extensive treatment and it’s far to early to say how he is.”

Liverpool can ill-afford to be without Owen against United.

He’s been by far and away their most potent striker this term and is now in the best form of his fluctuating season.

Liverpool have to win at Old Trafford to keep alive their Champions League qualification hopes, now they are just two points behind fourth-placed Chelsea in theBarclaycard Premiership.

With the uncertainty over Emile Heskey’s form and his axing from the England side, Liverpool need Owen more than ever. He will have round-the-clock treatment on the back injury right up to kick-off if necessary to get him into the starting line-up for Old Trafford.

Owen says: “I had got a dead back. It usually takes a couple of days to heal, but I am just hoping it will be all right after some treatment. I will have to wait and see.”

Owen revealed that he suffered the injury in the opening minutes of Wednesday’s game. “I got a kick in the back in the first five minutes which caused it, and with hindsight, I maybe should have come off then, but it improved as I carried on.

“But then I got another kick at the start of the second half, so I had to come off.” The injury is not connected to his previous hamstring problems.

Meanwhile, Fulham’s board of directors were busy drawing up their shortlist of candidates to replace Jean Tigana as uncertainty over players’ futures at the club grew.

Tigana has just seven more games as boss following chairman Mohamed Al Fayed’s decision not to go ahead with the Frenchman’s proposed two-year contract extension.

The move by the Harrods tycoon has severe ramifications throughout the club, as no fewer than eight players are either out of contract or at the end of their loan when the season ends in five weeks. France striker Steve

Marlet, the club’s £11.5 million record buy, has already claimed the destiny of the club’s French players is “linked to that of Tigana.”

And Junichi Inamoto, whose loan from Gamba Osaka expires at the end of the campaign, yesterday cast doubt on his future. Fulham’s board are masterminding the recruitment of Tigana’s successor, a man given an Identikit description by the club as “the next David Moyes.”

Fulham coach Chris Coleman ruled himself out of the running, insisting he is too inexperienced for management.

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