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Diouf could scupper Owen’s World Cup race against time
Michael Owen’s quest to find favour under England coach Fabio Capello ahead of June’s World Cup finals may have got a little harder with the arrival of Senegalese striker Mame Biram Diouf at Manchester United.
In only his second appearance since joining from Norwegian side Molde, Diouf opened his United account with a well-taken header in Saturday’s 3-0 Premier League win over Burnley and has firmly installed himself as a rival for the precious substitute time Owen has so far enjoyed unchallenged this season.
The last time United went shopping at Molde they brought back Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, who turned out rather well with 126 goals in 366 appearances.
The excitement manager Alex Ferguson has shown over Diouf in recent weeks has been reflected in decisions to use him ahead of Danny Wellbeck and Owen in last weekend’s 1-1 draw with Birmingham City, and again against Burnley.
Owen, forever ingrained in the memory of England fans for his stunner against Argentina in the 1998 World Cup, is desperate for playing time to have any chance of a seat on England’s plane to South Africa, but time and perhaps Diouf, are against him.
Owen’s Champions League hat-trick against VfL Wolfsburg this season made everyone sit up and take notice, with admirers only too keen to announce the boy was back in town and ready to make a first appearance since a 2008 friendly against France and a bid to add to his 40 international goals.
A place on the bench, tasked with the role of ‘supersub’ when England are yawning their way to a 0-0 draw with the United States, is a romantic prospect but there are 20-somethings such as Carlton Cole, Jermain Defoe and Darren Bent who arguably have a better case for inclusion.
Like many, I am a great admirer of Owen, but Diouf’s arrival may just spell the end of the former Liverpool striker’s unlikely bid for a recall.
Is Capello right to overlook him? Let us know your thoughts.