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Oct 8, 2009

Owen plays down Anfield hostility

Manchester United striker Michael Owen has tried to lessen the hostility surrounding his return to Anfield later this month by playing down his comments about being at the biggest club in the world.

Earlier this week the former Liverpool player praised the input of manager Sir Alex Ferguson, adding life at Old Trafford was "everything you would expect of a top team, probably the biggest club in the world''.

The manner of Owen's departure from Anfield to Real Madrid in 2004 is still a contentious one for Liverpool fans, who have never forgiven the former youth team star for threatening to run down the final year of his contract and leave for nothing.

Owen has since been back to Anfield with Newcastle after a one-year stay in Spain but the reaction to his visit with Liverpool's arch-rivals on October 25 is likely to be the most vitriolic yet - especially after his recent comments.

"I didn't set out to offend anyone,'' the striker said. "What I said was, in terms of support, revenue and stadium, Man United are probably the biggest in the world but Madrid, Barcelona and Liverpool are up there with them in other areas.

"In saying that, I'm sure things I've said at different times over the last 20 years will be dredged up and turned into back-page stories over the next two weeks.

"I've been back before with Newcastle a couple of times, so I've played there for an opposing team, but I'm certainly looking forward to this game. It will be different, it'll be a bit noisier.''

Owen has yet to be on the winning side against his former club but knows, playing for United, that could change this season.

"As usual between United and Liverpool, it'll be a competitive game between two of the world's top teams. The teams are more equally matched perhaps than when I went back with Newcastle, so it should be a good game and an exciting day.''

With Liverpool already having lost three Barclays Premier League matches this season, Owen is well aware the damage a United victory at Anfield could do to Rafael Benitez's side.

But, with United having lost at Burnley - a match Owen played in - early in the season, the England striker is wary of slipping up.

"It's still early in the season but you don't want to lose too many games or drop too many points at this stage,'' he said. All the teams seem quite tightly packed together [at the top], so it's still all to play for.''

Owen is still hoping his form for United, providing he stays fit, will get him back into the national team. His last England appearance came as a substitute in a friendly against France in March 2008 but injuries and a drop in form resulted in him being left out of Fabio Capello's squads since.

But, with 40 goals in his international career, Owen believes he can still perform for the national team.

"I've always been optimistic. I will always score goals and I have got the record to show that,'' he said. I have proven that at World Cups before but the last thing I want to do is start a campaign and say all the reasons why I could be or should be involved.''

Asked if he had spoken to Capello, Owen told Sky Sports News: "I don't need to. I know the situation. I need to play well and score goals for Manchester United. If I do that, then I could get picked.

"But I don't lie awake at night thinking about it. There is plenty more to life if I'm not picked in the England squad.''

With Liverpool already having lost three Barclays Premier League matches this season, Owen is well aware the damage a United victory at Anfield could do to Rafael Benitez's side.

But, with United having lost at Burnley - a match Owen played in - early in the season, the England striker is wary of slipping up.

"It's still early in the season but you don't want to lose too many games or drop too many points at this stage,'' he said. All the teams seem quite tightly packed together [at the top], so it's still all to play for.''

Owen is still hoping his form for United, providing he stays fit, will get him back into the national team. His last England appearance came as a substitute in a friendly against France in March 2008 but injuries and a drop in form resulted in him being left out of Fabio Capello's squads since.

But, with 40 goals in his international career, Owen believes he can still perform for the national team.

"I've always been optimistic. I will always score goals and I have got the record to show that,'' he said. I have proven that at World Cups before but the last thing I want to do is start a campaign and say all the reasons why I could be or should be involved.''

Asked if he had spoken to Capello, Owen told Sky Sports News: "I don't need to. I know the situation. I need to play well and score goals for Manchester United. If I do that, then I could get picked.

"But I don't lie awake at night thinking about it. There is plenty more to life if I'm not picked in the England squad.''

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