Return of the Native: Owen Hargreaves Returns to Manchester United's Delight

Saura BhattacharjeeAnalyst IMarch 19, 2010

Owen Hargreaves has finally recovered from the injury that wasted almost two years of his football life.

The 29-year-old Canada-born footballer was touted to be an English legend in the making.

But his rise to stardom was cut short due to a recurring patellae tendinitis injury which almost saw him sidelined from top-level football for nearly two years.

During this time the aspiring midfielder watched as numerous other players rose to prominence, like Gareth Barry and James Milner. The man who was an indispensable part of the England national team saw himself fall down the ranks slowly.

Hargreaves only has an outside chance of making Fabio Capello's England squad for the 2010 FIFA World Cup. For securing that too, he will have to prove himself in the coming months.

But his return will be more important for Manchester United's boss Sir Alex Ferguson as the race for domestic glory nears its end. With Arsenal, Chelsea, and Manchester all locked in a nail-biting contest for securing the winner's medal, Hargreaves' return could be a welcome relief for the Red Devils.

The 2006 England Player of the Year made his return in United's reserve game against Burnley on Thursday, where he played for 45 minutes. Ferguson will be hoping that he becomes match fit by the start of next month when the fight for the Premier League reaches its last stages. Hargreaves' return to United's midfield will be a major boost in confidence for the whole team.

Hargreaves will also be looking to make the most of the opportunity as he makes an attempt, in what may be his last chance, to achieve his prime.

But it remains to be seen if Hargreaves can really overcome his lack of top-level match practice in the past two years.

After signing a four-year contract with Manchester United in July 2007 for a fee of around £17 million, he made 34 appearances in Reds colours during the 2007-08 campaign. But thereafter he only made two appearances for United during the 2008-09 season as he was plagued by injury.

The 2009-10 season has not seen him in action as yet, but hopefully the start of April could see Hargreaves' return to first team action. How much effective he will be, though, for Manchester after such a long layoff will be the thing to watch out for.

Many of his critics have opined that Hargreaves will never achieve his prime after absence from top-class football for so long. But can Owen Hargreaves answer his critics? Can he achieve his prime? Can he make it to England's squad just in time for the World Cup? There are numerous questions to be answered.

Only the month of April can provide the answers to that.