Hargreaves worth the wait insists Ferguson

August 3, 2007

Sir Alex Ferguson is convinced Owen Hargreaves can be as effective for Manchester United as Roy Keane, Bryan Robson and Eric Cantona.

The England international is finally ready to make his United bow, either at Doncaster tonight, or Peterborough tomorrow after shaking off the knee injury which has plagued him since the first day of pre-season training.

Hargreaves' debut is eagerly awaited as, at £18million, he is the most expensive of Ferguson's summer purchases to date.

Not only that, with fellow new arrivals Nani and Anderson brought in with half an eye on the future, Hargreaves is the signing expected to make an immediate impact.

And, while Ferguson is giving little away about how he intends to integrate Hargreaves into his starting line-up, the United boss is certain the 26-year-old will have a major impact this term.

'Some players are worth waiting for - and Owen is one,' said Ferguson.

'He was England's best player at the last World Cup. He brings a quick energy to the centre of midfield and the European experience he has had with Bayern Munich is priceless.

'I won't saddle him with comparisons to Bryan Robson, Roy Keane and Eric Cantona because each player is different.

'But what I can say is that like those eminent predecessors, he will bring stature to his position and give me any number of options in terms of the role he will play.'

Options are one thing Ferguson seems certain to have plenty of in all areas this term, especially once the protracted Carlos Tevez saga reaches its conclusion.

The Scot is determined United's challenge for honours is not undermined by a glut of injuries, as it was last term.

So, even though four key men - Gary Neville, Paul Scholes, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Louis Saha - will sit out the remainder of the Red Devils' pre-season programme, Ferguson still has plenty of strength in depth ahead of a series of three games in three days, which culminates in Sunday's Community Shield showdown with Chelsea.

Certainly Neville believes United will be a stronger side this season than they were last, when they were just three wins away from emulating their historic 1999 Treble-winning campaign.

And, in England team-mate Hargreaves, the Old Trafford skipper believes Ferguson has signed a star.

'You will have to go a long way to find someone who is quicker at getting to the ball,' Neville told www.thefa.com

'He won't lose concentration during a match and he works very hard for the team. If you give Owen a job, he will do it.

'He is also a great free-kick taker, which is something I don't think should be underestimated. It's something we will see a lot of for United this season.'