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Sir Alex Ferguson has admitted he has "not been completely fair'' to Michael Owen amid reports the striker is being targeted by Newcastle.

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But that interest is not from Newcastle United of the Premier League, but Australian club Newcastle Jets of the A-League who are lining up a bid to make Owen, 31, their marquee player for next season, according to reports in the Australian press. The Jets have a new millionaire owner, Nathan Tinkler, who is eager to make a splash with some high profile signings for next season.

If Owen was to head down under he would follow in the footsteps of current Perth Glory striker Robbie Fowler - like Owen, a former Liverpool great - and former Sydney FC man Dwight Yorke, who both headed to the A-League as marquee players in the twilight of their careers.

Manchester United striker Owen has been starved of opportunities during his second season at Old Trafford, leading to the general conclusion he will leave the club when his contract expires at the end of the season. Owen has started just four games so far this season, yet he has still managed to bag four goals, the latest beginning the FA Cup comeback at Southampton a fortnight ago.

As the season enters its most crucial phase, Ferguson is acutely aware Owen's nose for an opportunity could be a very useful asset. However, with Dimitar Berbatov, Wayne Rooney and Javier Hernandez available as well, the United boss is not entirely sure where he can squeeze Owen into his team.

"I keep trying to get myself into a situation where I can play Michael Owen more often,'' said Ferguson. "I haven't been completely fair that way. He is a terrific trainer and every time I play him he never lets me down.''

Understandably, given the impact he has had in a stellar debut season at United, Hernandez has tended to be the man Ferguson calls upon should either Berbatov or Rooney falter. However, as the campaign reaches its tense conclusion, Owen's vast experience may force Ferguson's hand.

"Michael is a phenomenal player in and around the box,'' said Ferguson. "You can make similarities in physique to Javier Hernandez. In and around the box, both of them are very dangerous players. The advantage we have with Michael on the run-in is that he has terrific big-game experience. It could prove very important to us.''


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