Windsor provided stage for Michael Owen’s last United action
Many great footballing careers started at Windsor Park — including that of Harry Gregg who was back at the international venue on Tuesday night for the emotional occasion of a testimonial in his honour.
But it was also an emotional night at the famous old stadium for a modern day player as the harsh reality of a career at the top coming to an end sunk in.
Manchester United, special guests for the 4-1 victory over an Irish League Select side, have ended their relationship with former Liverpool, Real Madrid and Newcastle striker Michael Owen.
After the game, United boss Sir Alex Ferguson informed the England international that the club couldn’t offer him a new deal.
A three-year stay at United is over and it’s also the end of Owen’s career at the top of the game as — despite his desire not to drop down to the Championship — not too many Premier League sides will be prepared to gamble on the player’s fitness.
Despite playing 62 minutes of the testimonial match, the 32-year-old has been restricted to just four appearances this season because of injuries.
His last competitive action was a Champions League clash against Otelul Galati last November.
Owen was part of the England side that lost 1-0 to Northern Ireland at Windsor Park in September, 2005 but his powers have dramatically waned since then.
Despite being released, he has no intention of hanging up his boots.
“At 32, I definitely owe it to myself to have two or three years and play a bit more — but for somebody else,” he said.
“I am only 32. I might look a bit older than that but looking at the likes of Scholesy and Giggsy, it doesn't half fill you with a lot of motivation and confidence.
“They are playing into their mid-to-late thirties and I still feel as if I am reasonably young.
“When I wake up my body feels good even though I have had a few injuries.”
Owen insists he only wants to play on at top-flight level, whether at home or abroad.
He said: “I don't think the Championship would be an option if I am totally honest.
“I don't feel I have lost the ability to score goals or play at a high level. I have been playing and training with top players all my life and that was one of the attractions in going to Man United.”