Owen braced for facing Reds fans in United shirt

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src=' ' class='caption'> Michael Owen knows how tough it is trying to convince England coach Fabio Capello he's good enough for the World Cup, especially as it might well be in vain.

Updated: October 20, 2009 13:41 IST
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Michael Owen knows how tough it is trying to convince England coach Fabio Capello he's good enough for the World Cup, especially as it might well be in vain.

The former Liverpool, Real Madrid and Newcastle striker has fought back from persistent hamstring injuries, a knee operation and a foot fracture and emerged still trying to sound positive.

Now comes possibly the most difficult task of all.

Once the favorite of the Liverpool fans, Owen now has to face them at Anfield wearing a Manchester United shirt.

When it comes to football, the followers of the two most successful clubs in English league history hate each other.

Few players wind up playing for both clubs and, although Owen has taken a round trip via Madrid and Newcastle, the Liverpool fans are likely to forget all the great goals he scored for their team when they see him wearing the colors of United.

Owen does not know what to expect.

"I would prefer people to sit down and recognize what you did for them and for the team in years gone past," he said. "But I am pretty realistic as well and now that I am playing for their arch rivals... I am not holding my breath, put it that way."

Owen hopes that the Liverpool fans will acknowledge that he is a professional player earning a living.

After disappointing spells at Madrid and Newcastle, he badly needed a positive break to get back to the top of English football and recapture his England place. With Liverpool seemingly not interested in taking him back, he had to go to a club capable of winning titles.

Manchester United appeared to be the ideal choice although not in the eyes of the Liverpool fans.

"People talk about loyalty in football. It is easy for a football supporter to preach about that," Owen said. "As a father, brother and son, there is no one more loyal than me. But when you are a player, you are not a fan. I have got to earn a living, provide for my family.

"It is a job opportunity, just like anyone else's work."

Owen has faced Liverpool before. As a Newcastle player last season, he played both Premier League games which his former club won 5-1 and 3-0.

But this is different and, if Wayne Rooney fails to recover from injury, there is a good chance Owen will start or at least be on the bench at Anfield.

The thought doesn't appear to worry him. Neither, it seems, do his so far fruitless efforts to get Capello to select him for England.

The Italian coach has guided England impressively to the 2010 World Cup with nine wins in 10 qualifying matches without any help from Owen, a veteran of three such championships with a record of 40 goals in 89 games for his country.

Capello persistently says "the door is still open" when the subject is raised of Owen's inclusion in the England squad although that doesn't sound like much encouragement for the 29-year-old striker.

The player's argument is that he won't let Capello down and he has plenty of experience of World Cups, whereas younger players might freeze on the big occasion.

"Everyone knows if I play then I am likely to score every other game," he said. "Playing in a World Cup wouldn't bother me. In fact, I would raise my game, as happened before in big games.

"Naturally I would like to be in the squad but the last thing I want to be is campaigning."

With Sunday's game also looming, Owen has plenty to think about as the Man United stars make the long journey to and from their Champions League group game against CSKA Moscow in Russia.

Owner of his own stables, Owen glances through the horseracing papers to check out the odds on his thoroughbreds. He might also spot that the bookmakers rate him a 9-4 shot to play at the World Cup but 1-3 that he won't.

If that doesn't worry him, there's always the thought of facing those Liverpool fans.

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