WOLFSBURG, Germany (AFP) – England striker Michael Owen hit a Champions League hat-trick on Tuesday to give national coach Fabio Capello a timely reminder of his talent as Manchester United finished top of their group.
Owen, who turns 30 on December 14, demonstrated his finishing class with a well-taken hat-trick to seal United's 3-1 victory at Wolfsburg to dump the Germans out of the Champions League and boost his World Cup chances.
|Manchester United's Michael Owen celebrates after scoring against Wolfsburg during their UEFA Champions League Group B match in the northern German city of Wolfsburg. (AFP photo)|
It was Owen's first Champions League hat-trick since joining Manchester United last summer.
After his first-half header, Owen slid home his second on 83 minutes before producing a superb effort in extra-time to claim his third.
"Michael Owen is one of the best strikers in the last third of the field in terms of his movement, his positional play and also in terms of his finishing," insisted Ferguson.
And the Scot hinted a place in United's first-choice side may well beckon for Owen, who is England's fourth-highest scorer with 40 goals for his country.
The 29-year-old won the last of his 89 Englands caps in March 2008 in the 1-0 defeat to France and could yet make Capello's 2010 World Cup squad based on this sort of form.
"At the end of the day, the evidence is on the football field and he gave plenty of that tonight," said Ferguson.
"I have no worries of playing him, he has improved steadily in training.
"Normally we play with one striker in Wayne Rooney, but here we had two strikers in Daniel Welbeck and Michael and I am delighted with Michael's performance."
With half-time beckoning, Owen grabbed his first goal when Nani swung in a cross and the England striker slipped his marker to head home on 44 minutes.
Then with time running out, United replacement Gabriel Obertan put in a crisp pass which found Owen unmarked in the penalty area and the striker stabbed his shot home on 83 minutes.
He showed his class with the third as United broke from their own goalmouth and Obertan again released Owen down the flank before the striker chipped the ball over Wolfsburg goalkeeper Diego Benaglio in injury-time.
CSKA Moscow's 2-1 win at Besiktas put the Russians through as runners-up at Wolfsburg's expense.
With just one fit first-choice defenders in his squad, Ferguson opted to play a 3-5-2 formation with three centre-backs to cope with Wolfsburg's strikers Edin Dzeko and Grafite and his gamble paid off.
"It was a risk in terms of changing the system and we were concerned about containing Dzeko and Grafite, I thought playing three centre-backs would give us a good chance.
"There was some pressure on Wolfsburg to get the result and that suited us as we could afford to be patient.
"They missed two chances to go ahead in the first-half and we may have had to change things if we had been playing catch up.
"Wolfsburg are a strong team and they had some bad luck tonight."
Bosnia and Herzegovina striker Dzeko, who also scored in the first-leg at Old Trafford which United won last September, equalised for the Germans in the second-half only for Owen to make sure of the three points.
"The Champion's League is over for us," said Dzeko.
"This is a great pity, we could have already decided everything in Moscow, but we missed out chances.
"Unfortunately, we have also not used our second chance here tonight."