The Michael Owen Story: Betrayal, Selfishness, Or Just Good Sense?

Barney Corkhill@@BarneyCorkhillSenior Writer IJuly 4, 2009

The above picture turns my stomach like no other in recent footballing memory.

Michael Owen wearing a Manchester United shirt.

Michael Owen hoisting a Manchester United scarf aloft in the way so many Liverpool fans do before every single game.

Michael Owen smiling while doing these things.

It just doesn't fit. When I first heard about these rumours, I simply laughed them off. Owen could, and would, never go to Manchester United, surely?

He is a Liverpool legend. I still sometimes think of him as a Liverpool player. Certainly, the first thing I think of when I hear his name is him celebrating scoring yet another goal in front of the Kop.

11 years ago, Owen burst on to the international scene during the 1998 World Cup. He was one of the most exciting prospects of recent times, outlined by his European Player of the Year award just three years later.

At that same time 11 years ago, Hull City were languishing down at the bottom of the football league.

11 days ago, however, it looked like Michael Owen was going to join Hull when his Newcastle contract ran out, an unthinkable concept while Owen was scoring that goal against Argentina in '98.

It seemed that the meteoric rise of Hull would meet the devastating decline of Michael Owen and they would be a good match for each other.

What no-one had counted on, however, was Manchester United, one of the best teams in the world, hijacking the bid and signing Michael Owen for themselves.

It is a big risk. Owen's injury history is well documented, but so is his natural finishing ability. He may not have the same pace, but Ruud Van Nistelrooy wasn't the fastest striker either, and it didn't stop him scoring prolifically.

If you ask me, I would begrudgingly say that Ferguson has done it again, and I expected nothing less of him.

However, the feeling of betrayal I got from Michael Owen's side would have, I'm sure, been shared by almost every Liverpool fan in the world.

How could he, a graduate of Liverpool's academy, sign for Manchester United when he knows Liverpool are within touching distance of that elusive Premier League crown?

Non-Liverpool fans may not understand, and to the neutral it is a great move for the player, but the prospect of Owen, for so long a hero of the Kop, helping United to another title sickens me.

Did I really expect him to turn it down? No. I hoped he would, but why would he?

You have to be selfish in football and, personal allegiances aside, Owen made the right move. In a choice between Man Utd and Hull, there is only ever going to be one winner.

But if Owen is going to be selfish, the Liverpool fans should also be allowed to.

Opposing this move is without doubt selfish, although this selfishness is shared amongst millions of people worldwide.

We wanted Owen to do what was best for us, not what was best for himself. The fact that he didn't is seen as treachery, and moving to Manchester United is the ultimate betrayal.

So the Michael Owen story takes another twist, and one which could see him back in the England set-up, which could in turn be good for their World Cup chances.

As an England fan as well, then, I am going through mixed emotions.

Is the Michael Owen story betrayal, selfishness, or just good sense? A little bit of all three. It was no doubt the right decision from Owen, but it was also a selfish one, and one that left Liverpool fans feeling betrayed.

However betrayed I feel, though, I don't begrudge the move. Owen deserves another shot at the big time, it's just unfortunate that it will come with United.

If he helps them to another title, however, I may not be so forgiving.


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