Owen Hargreaves is wrong to hit out at Manchester United over injuries
Amidst the mountain of books I read during the summer was Paul Lake’s wonderful autobiography “I’m Not Really Here”.
For those that don’t know, Paul was a fabulously versatile player for Manchester City and considered by many to be a future England captain until injury and maltreatment of that injury ended his career in the early 90s.
One of the most revealing passages in the book was of how the club belatedly realised and accepted that Lake might find success through help from a highly thought of doctor in the United States. City finally sent him there in the company of a club physio.
The treatment seemed to be working. Lake regained considerable movement in his knee and he continued to recuperate across the Atlantic.
The club physio flew home ahead of him: in business class. When Lake was ready to return to Manchester, he found that the club had booked him in economy. By the end of the flight home from California and the cramped torture for a severely injured athlete, he was back to square one.
I thought of Lake’s terrible experiences after seeing Owen Hargreaves’ return last week, ironically now playing for City. I heard too the criticism of his treatment at Manchester United.
I am sure he was expressing frustration and disappointment rather than malice. Hargreaves is a really nice guy. He was ‘raised’ at Bayern Munich where players have always been encouraged to speak openly and honestly. However, while querying the impact of the series of injections he received at Old Trafford, I can’t believe he thought he was in any way a ‘guinea pig’. He’s wrong about that. Stuff happens.
United paid a lot of money to secure Hargreaves and then paid him handsomely for a period of three years when he was overwhelmingly unavailable through injury. I think they stood by him magnificently and it was only with great reluctance that they bade farewell.
Like it or not, football is a business. United knew they were giving up on a player seen as the best defensive midfielder in the country and Hargreaves talent was widely acknowledged. It seems Fabio Capello had to be talked out of including him in the provisional squad for the World Cup in South Africa even though the player had seen only a few minutes action in the season leading up to it.
And he can be that player again. Whilst some at Old Trafford might be reluctant to see Hargreaves reclaim such status, most will want him to do well.
What I don’t want is to see him leave a match early because of injury. I don’t know how many games he will start and, more important, complete in the months ahead but have no doubts he can hold off the challenge of formidable colleagues in Roberto Mancini’s squad and also force his way back into contention for England. If he’s fit Hargreaves will be at Euro 2012 and I’ll be cheering from the sidelines.
So will Paul Lake.