“When it became clear Benitez didn’t want to do a deal, I spoke again with Ferguson.”
Michael Owen said that he only joined Manchester United in 2009 after being rejected by Liverpool.
Owen revealed in Ring of Fire, Simon Hughes’ book about Liverpool players in the 21st century, that he spent most of the second half of his career attempting to engineer a move back to Liverpool.
His final attempt came in 2009 and, when it fell through, Owen joined Liverpool’s bitter rivals Man United.
Owen’s time with Liverpool
Owen scored an incredible 158 goals in 297 games for the Reds between 1997 and 2004. He was among the best strikers in the world and the star of a talented Liverpool team that won the Uefa Cup, the FA Cup and two League Cups. Yet, in 2004, he departed the club for Real Madrid.
The former England striker says in Ring of Fire that he had never particularly wanted to leave Anfield.
He had hoped to return to his boyhood club after a year in Spain. However, only one part of the peculiar plan worked out.
“Everything was geared towards getting me back to Liverpool”
Owen only played for Real Madrid for a single season, where he scored 16 goals in 45 games for Los Blancos, but failed to settle off the field. He joined Newcastle in the summer of 2005 for £16.8m.
Liverpool had won the Champions League without their former talisman but were not prepared to match the Magpies’ offer.
Owen’s contract stipulated that he could rejoin Liverpool for £12m after one season with Newcastle, £8m after two seasons and just £4m after three seasons.
As the striker says in the book, “everything was geared towards getting me back to Liverpool.”
“I was on the phone to Carra telling him to find a way to get me back”
“At every stage – every summer – I was on the phone to Carra telling him to find a way to get me back,” Owen tells Hughes in Ring of Fire.
“‘Does Rafa want me?’ I’d say. ‘Does Kenny want me? Does Brendan want me?’ It was circumstance that stopped it happening. Whenever I was available, Liverpool had too many strikers. And when Liverpool wanted me, I was injured.
“By the end, I wasn’t the player I had been before and they simply didn’t fancy me. I wasn’t good enough.”
The England forward endured an unhappy four-year spell at St James’ Park, suffering injuries and lack of form.
Newcastle were relegated during his final season and Owen walked away on a free transfer in 2009. He remains deeply unpopular with Newcastle supporters.
Owen joins Man United
In 2009, it appeared that Owen’s return to Anfield would finally happen. Hull City and Everton were linked with moves for him. But, once again, had his heart set on rejoining Liverpool, who had just finished second in the Premier League under Rafa Benitez.
Yet, once again, Liverpool weren’t interested. Owen’s consolation prize was a move to Manchester United, who had just won a third consecutive Premier League and appeared in a second consecutive Champions League final.
Alex Ferguson had lost Cristiano Ronaldo to Real Madrid and Carlos Tevez had left Man United to join Manchester City. He needed another striker and got in touch with Owen.
However, it seems Owen only agreed to join Man United after being knocked back, once again, by Liverpool.
“When it became clear Benitez didn’t want to do a deal, I spoke again with Ferguson”
“I spoke to Carra (Jamie Carragher) and tried to get (Rafa) Benitez to do something. I wanted to try to put it right somehow,” Owen said.
“When it became clear Benitez didn’t want to do a deal, I spoke again with Ferguson. He was very positive about me. I was twenty-nine years old. Should I have decided to retire there and then?”
Owen spent three years at Old Trafford and scored 17 goals in 52 games. He was part of the team that won the League Cup in 2010 and the Premier League in 2011.
He also scored a famous winner with the final kick of the game against Manchester City at Old Trafford in September 2009. After one season with Stoke City, he retired from football in 2013.
Owen retains a link with Liverpool, working as an international ambassador for the club. He has also worked as a pundit for BT Sport and owns several racehorses.
Originally published on May 5, 2020.