Manchester United’s derby hero Michael Owen has revealed he tried to get a return to Liverpool before Sir Alex Ferguson decided to hand him a contract, but Rafa Benitez snubbed him.
Speaking to the official Liverpool television channel, Owen described how when he left Newcastle United on a free transfer after four injury-ravaged years at St James’ Park he was hoping for a return to Anfield.
However, it was not to be and the England international ended up signing for fierce rivals Manchester United to play under legendary manager Ferguson.
“I wanted to sign for Liverpool. I left Newcastle and the first thing I did was phone Carra [Jamie Carragher] and asked him ‘Can you speak to the manager?’” he said.
“He spoke to him and at that time Liverpool wasn’t an option, they didn’t want me back at that time. I tried my best to get back.
“It became a case of seeing who was the best club to join and at that time the biggest three clubs that were seriously in were Hull, Everton and Manchester United.”
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For many Liverpool fans Owen’s move to Manchester United soured his legacy at the Anfield club, where he had moved through the ranks as a young boy and become arguably the most talented player to have come through the academy in modern times.
He scored 158 goals in 297 matches for the Reds, winning five major trophies, including a run of five trophies in one season. Owen was also named the European Player of the Year in 2001 – it was then named the Ballon d’Or, but that was it’s previous incarnation before FIFA bought the rights.
Owen left Liverpool for Real Madrid in 2004 after eight years in the Liverpool senior team, but his time at the Santiago Bernabeu was spent mostly sitting on the bench, despite possessing one of the best goalscoring ratios at the club.
Newcastle United followed and then Manchester United. Again, he was only a bit-part player for his three seasons and started a very few amount of games in that time. However, he endeared himself to the Old Trafford faithful, and gave a reminder of his quality, by scoring the dramatic late winner against Manchester City in the memorable 4-3 victory in 2009.
That winner and a classy hat-trick in the Champions League groups stages away at Wolfsburg were probably the highlights of a disappointing spell at the Red Devils, which was his final club before retirement.