Ferguson backs Owen to prove a worthy United number seven

ALEX FERGUSON believes Michael Owen will turn out to be a worthy wearer of Manchester United’s iconic number seven shirt.

Owen has been handed the shirt last worn by Cristiano Ronaldo to follow a tradition that also includes David Beckham, Eric Cantona, Bryan Robson and George Best.

The decision came as a surprise to some United followers, who were opposed to Owen’s arrival both because of his background as a Liverpool star and the fact they thought he was finished when he left Newcastle this summer.

However, Owen has put such criticism to one side and finished United’s Far East tour on top of the scoring charts after netting a brace in their 8-2 demolition of Chinese Super League outfit Greentown Hangzhou last night.

“The criteria for the number seven is quite clear,” said Ferguson.

“It is a jersey that has been worn by some high-profile players and we have that in Michael Owen.

“You have to choose someone you are confident can carry that on and his profile in the last decade has been outstanding. I am not concerned about what the supporters think – it is important to give it to someone who is confident and comfortable and he was a natural choice.”

Providing he stays clear of the injuries that disrupted his time at Newcastle, Ferguson is confident the striker can find the net on a regular basis.

The United manager has already set his new recruit a 15-goal target for his debut season, which he would probably achieve quite comfortably if he stays fit, given the number of chances his team-mates tend to create.

“Owen’s overall play is well suited to us,” he said. “He is very clever in the last third. He knows when to run and when to hold his runs. The experience he gives in that position is vital.

“It’s not the acid test but things are looking good with that signing because, given his abilities and understanding of play in the last third, we know he will get goals.”

And, while Owen is still to be on the pitch at the same time as England colleague Wayne Rooney, the 29-year-old has struck up a productive partnership with Dimitar Berbatov, who scored and set up both goals for his fellow striker as well as one each for Zoran Tosic and Nani.

“We are not in bad shape,” said Ferguson. “It was our intention to use different pairings with the strikers and we have some strong options.

“Federico Macheda has shown good development for a 17-year-old boy, we also have the experience of Berbatov and Owen and we all know the expectation surrounding Wayne Rooney.”

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