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Sep, 30, 2009

Owen: I will play for England again

Michael Owen insists he remains as good a player as when he was England's leading striker and has vowed to prove his worth to England and Manchester United.

Owen, named European player of the year in 2001, has been blighted by injuries over the past few seasons and has struggled to re-create the form that saw him collect the Balon D'Or after winning three trophies with Liverpool and netting a hat-trick for England in their 5-1 demolition of Germany.

And despite a prolific 40 goals in 89 games for the national side, current England boss Fabio Capello has continued to overlook the striker, maintaining that he will only pick players on their form and not their reputation.

But after moving to United, and scoring the winner in the Manchester derby, things are looking up for Owen, who dismissed those who claim he is past his best.

"I am not slower now than I was seven, eight years ago,'' Owen told the Times. "No chance. With the hamstring problems early in my career, they knocked a yard off my pace straightaway, but since then I have been the same player and if anything I have improved.

"Game awareness is a good word for it. A lot of it is so instinctive it's hard to put down. It is your experience taking you into areas. You think, 'Would I have moved there as a kid, would I have anticipated that?"

After a period in the international wilderness, Owen is determined to be on the plane to South Africa next summer, but while he is desperate to return to the international fold, he admitted that Capello has never discussed the possibility of an England re-call.

"People think I'm past my thirties, I'm in my forties, the way they talk about me," Owen said. "I'm only 29. I'm not past it. It's not an easy squad to get into with the results the team are getting at the minute. But I'm as passionate as ever about extending my time with England.

"Capello has never talked to me about the situation. I met him after the Community Shield. I was getting on to the coach. He was coming down to get in his car to leave. He was there with Franco Baldini.

"Franco saw me and gave me the thumbs up. I walked over and shook both of their hands. Franco said, 'How are you? Are you feeling fit?' I said, 'Yeah, yeah, I'm feeling fine.' 'Good luck, we'll keep watching you.' That's the only contact.''

Owen also revealed his delight at his summer move to Old Trafford, a move that gives him the chance to re-ignite a career that had stagnated during a spell at St James' Park.

"I had felt a bit strangled at Newcastle" Owen told the Daily Telegraph. "There were certain games I would have five touches. Newcastle had some cracking players but we were just so low on confidence.''

"I had a few butterflies [when he first met Sir Alex Ferguson]" but after five minutes I lost that nervousness and was able to talk. I listened more than I talked which is pretty wise I would suggest!"

And the striker has certainly endeared himself to United fans after his last-gasp winner in the Manchester derby.

"To score such a dramatic goal against your arch rivals did a lot for me," Owen said. "I'd contributed to winning a game. I felt part of the club. I felt great among the lads and the fans."

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