Rallying call from Owen

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Michael Owen has called on all his new Manchester United team-mates to "step up to the plate" as they look to replace the man whose shirt he now wears.

Owen enjoyed the perfect start to life as United's new number seven by scoring a late winner as the Red Devils opened their Far East tour with a 3-2 win over a Malaysia XI.

"Hopefully I might add something the team haven't got at the moment," he said. "Nobody is going to replace Ronaldo, even though I wear his shirt, but if someone like Wayne (Rooney) could improve his game five per cent, that would help. I can add a little bit, there is Antonio Valencia."

He added: "Everyone is going to have to step up to the plate a bit more to make up for him."

No-one, least of all Owen himself or manager Sir Alex Ferguson is going to get carried away by one 30 minute cameo.

Nevertheless, there were encouraging signs that Owen's trademark runs will be spotted by the likes of Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs just as the former Liverpool striker felt on the day he jumped at the chance of joining United.

"There are so many players on my wavelength - world-class players," he said.

"I would hope there is no-one similar to me in the way that I play. I can see Wayne Rooney or Paul Scholes as soon as they get the ball looking for one of my runs."

Ferguson spotted it too, although his words were of caution in the knowledge that it is against Birmingham on August 16 that Owen's contribution can start to be judged.

"It was a friendly game," he said. "I am sure Michael will be delighted he got off the mark but I am looking ahead to the season. I know he will give us a good contribution of goals. That will be a more important time to appraise him."

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Ryan Giggs
Michael Owen
Premier League
Manchester United
Paul Scholes
Wayne Rooney
Antonio Valencia

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