With Owen Hargreaves looking likely to sign up with City before the transfer window sews itself up for another few months, I’m left with a belly sloshed to sickness with mixed emotions. Hargreaves was a player that instantly won me over with his tenacious appetite to compete and dominate in the middle of the pitch. He was a true midfield dynamo.
I use the past tense not to disassociate my attachment to him as a favourite player of mine, or to hint at some sense of partisan betrayal and personal bitterness against his prospective move to City, but due a sense that he’s now an ‘unknown quantity’ to some degree. After three years out of the game, its hard to tell what’ll be left of Hargreaves’ on-field abilities.
Regardless of the colours he’ll now be wearing, I will feel nothing but elation for a player able to once again take to the pitch at the highest level after being cut down in his prime by forces outside of his control. Considering the former United player’s luck with injuries in recent years, i’d say ‘break a leg’, but that would hardly seem appropriate under the circumstances. Physical health and fortune aside, Hargreaves has always been, to a large extent, a player whose strength and abilities lie in his mental approach, and it is these qualities that will drive any potential comeback.
The reports of Hargreaves offering to play for United for free this season are based on comments that were, by his own admission, not entirely serious, and Manchester United fans should not feel a sense of entitlement or ownership over him. In a game where extreme bitterness and bile are thrown about all too often, the idea of wishing injury or tragedy on an opposition footballer just because of their jersey is puerile and pathetic. As i’ve said before on this very blog, Hargreaves was, for me, the closest player to replicate Roy Keane at United, as evidenced by his contributions towards the 2008 Champions League win. I would have loved to have seen him offered a pay-as-you-play contract to stay at Old Trafford for at least another year, but even at City, seeing such a fantastic and likeable player rise up from gloomy catastrophe will be a massive positive for the 2011/12 season regardless of league tables, cup wins or goal tallys. Whilst it would be easier to watch him resurrect his career at Villa, Spurs, West Brom or any number of other clubs free from the close rivalry of United and City, Hargreaves is a player who deserves to deploy his undoubtable ability at the highest levels.
Having said that, i’m still hoping, deep down, that we’re resigning him and this is all just a horrible mistake by the football media. Wherever he ends up, I can only wish him well.
All the best Hargo!