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Owen Hargreaves: The Indomitable Force Behind Manchester United's Success

Few professional footballers have a more engaging background story than Owen Hargreaves. A world-class defensive midfielder in his pomp, he is the son of an English couple who emigrated to Canada in the early 1980s.

He was late to the game - taking it seriously at age 15, with other sports such as basketball, NFL, and ice hockey dominating his early competitive instincts.

He did have the virtue of having a father who played professional football for Bolton during his early years in England before signing for the Calgary Kickers in the Canadian Soccer League.

Here's where it gets interesting.

He came to meet a football coach by the name of Thomas Niendorf, who used to work in East Germany. The collapse of the Berlin Wall meant Niendirf went to pastures new and chance would have it that he came to work in Canada.

After impressing Niendorf with his athleticism and hard work, he was earmarked to try out for Bayern Munich - impressing enough to sign for the Bavarian giants, despite not speaking a word of German.

The Manchester United Era

The Manchester United Era

Legendary Manchester United manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, was a long-time admirer of the player. He liked his tenacity, his work rate, and his ability to do simple things at a very high level - much like his previous midfield general Roy Keane.

The signing itself was a labour of love. Man Utd had initially inquired about a transfer the season before he joined, but Bayern were not prepared to let him go. A disappointing club season (the Bavarian giants finished fourth and relinquished the Bundesliga title) and a severe leg break to Hargreaves during the campaign had also thrown the transfer in doubt, with United cautious about any long-term contract for a player suffering such a serious injury issue.

But Ferguson was determined to get his man, and when Hargreaves began pushing for the move, it was only a matter of time before the Red Devils tied him to a contract.

After a year of lengthy negotiation, a £17 million fee, and a bit of player pressure, Hargeaves signed on the dotted line.

Playing Style, Strengths, and Tactical Significance

Playing Style, Strengths, and Tactical Significance

A tough tackling workhorse, Hargreaves was seen as the natural replacement for Roy Keane, who had left a few years earlier. Stepping into the Irishman's shoes would never be easy - especially given the reverence with which United fans hold him.

While less technically proficient than the former captain and talisman, Hargreaves did have relentless energy, tactical intelligence, and a disciplined approach to his defensive duties.

He had a knack for breaking up play, often intercepting passes and disrupting the opposition's rhythm with his aggressive yet clean tackling.

Offensively, he provided an additional threat with his accurate passing, often initiating forward moves and occasionally chipping in with crucial goals.

Most Memorable Hargreaves Moments

Here are the top three moments involving Hargreaves at Man Utd:

⚽️ Free kick against Arsenal

A must-win encounter against the Gunners was a massive moment in the race for the title - a win for the Red Devils would move them six points clear at the tip and set them on the road to an 11th Premier League trophy.

Star player Cristiano Ronaldo stood over the free kick in his trademark pose, with a few deep breaths and a dropping of the shoulders. Every player and supporter assumed it would be the Portuguese to take the set-piece, but Hargreaves stepped forward to curl and dip a delicious effort over the wall to leave Gunners goalkeeper Jens Lehmann with no chance.

🔥 Free kick against Fulham

His first goal for United saw him step up to sweep a delicious effort from within the D at the edge of the penalty area.

It was almost too close to the 18-yard line to pose a problem - it had to be perfect execution to dip the ball over the wall with enough pace to beat the goalkeeper.

🏆 Champions League Final penalty against Chelsea

When the pressure is on, you need your best players to step up. The Champions League Final is the biggest game in club football, and the 2007/08 match between Man Utd and Chelsea had gone to penalties.

With the Red Devils' fourth effort, Hargreaves had to score after Ronaldo had missed his spot-kick. If he missed, Chelsea would win.

He hammered it into the top corner, leaving Petr Cech with no chance.

💔 Injury Struggles

After a promising 2007/2008 season, his career was disrupted by injuries, most notably to his knees. Despite extensive rehabilitation and multiple surgeries, Hargreaves could never regain his fitness. His appearances on the pitch were sporadic, and ultimately, he was released by the club in 2011.

🎙️ Punditry Career

Thanks to his incredible insight into playing at the top level, Hargreaves is now one of the best football pundits on TV, offering his views on flagship football coverage for the most significant events, including the Champions League and Premier League.

Owen Hargreaves - Video Game Character

Owen Hargreaves - Video Game Character

As a tough tackling, technical midfielder, Hargreaves was a popular choice for football-based video games, with his fitness and running stats especially beneficial.

While his stats were good, artistic reimaginings of his appearance left much to be desired. Technology has moved on since 2006, but his likeness to the game character has prompted some hilarity among national newspapers in the UK.

Can you see the likeness?

The team at CasinoCanada only recommends games that pass the gameplay and graphics test - we're wondering whether we could give this the green light!

Michelle Thomas
Former Author
Master of Business and Finance
Expert in:
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Reviewed by Head of Content:
Dmitry Rogalchuk
Last updated on: 17.02.2024

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