Michael Owen burned a lot of bridges when he signed for Manchester United in 2009.
The former Liverpool hero had been linked with a move back to Anfield every year since leaving them in 2004, and for him to join one of their biggest rivals was seen a major slap in the face by the fans.
However, the former England international has revealed that he only joined Man United after being rejected by then-Liverpool manager Rafa Benítez upon leaving Newcastle in 2009.
In Simon Hughes’ new book Ring of Fire (with excerpts subsequently published by the Mirror) with carries stories from Liverpool players of this century, Owen reveals that he was desperate to rejoin his old club, repeatedly pestering old teammate Jamie Carragher to try to make the move happen.
“At every stage – every summer – I was on the phone to Carra telling him to find a way to get me back,
“‘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.”
Owen scored 158 goals in almost 300 games at Liverpool before joining Real Madrid for £8m in 2004. Despite a relatively productive spell in La Liga, Owen returned to England the following summer with Newcastle.
He moved to Old Trafford four years later, but only did so when it became clear that Benítez wasn’t interested in a deal – in fact, he even contemplated retirement ahead of making that particular move:
“I spoke to Carra and tried to get Benitez to do something. I wanted to try to put it right somehow.
“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 went on to score 17 goals in 52 appearances at Manchester United before moving to Stoke in 2012. In his time at Old Trafford he won the League Cup in 2010 and received a Premier League winners’ medal the following year.