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What To Make Of Hargreaves Move To City?

Owen Hargreaves had a phenomenal début season for Manchester United, contributing heavily to the second most successful season in our club’s history, winning the league title and European Cup. The moments that stand out of him are probably the penalty against Chelsea in the Champions League final and the freekick against Arsenal in the league on the day it felt like we had won the title. It wasn’t just the measurable things like goals and assists that made the fans warm to him, but his work rate too.

Hargreaves made his début at Wastelands in a 1-0 defeat but he was the silver lining that day. He was no Roy Keane but he was the closest we’d come to signing someone that important to the midfield since our former skipper’s departure. From then on, whether in the centre of the park or at right back, or even on the right wing, Hargreaves really gave his all and looked to be a cracking player.

It was all downhill for him from there though and he has spent the past three years on the treatment table. The club have stood by him throughout this time, obviously paying his wages and for his treatment. The manager’s patience grew thin with the player as he insisted on trying out his own treatments and spending a lot of time away from the club.

After hobbling off in his last ever United game against Wolves last season, doing his calf and hamstring, he then dislocated his shoulder in a Reserves game. Hargreaves himself acknowledged that fans were right to claim he was made out of glass.

He claims he offered to stay at the club and play for free this season, so desperate was he to stay at United. “Manchester United is a wonderful club,” he said in an interview last week. United turned down his offer, with plans to bring through younger players in to the team. The manager has been true to his word, fielding teams with an average age of 22/23-years-old. Hargreaves would be occupying the place in the squad that could be used on playing a young lad.

Hargreaves also claimed that he wanted to sign for a club where he would play 40 games this season. With Tottenham Hotspur, Aston Villa and West Brom all keen to sign him, it looked as though there might be some hope of him making a come back, however unlikely it seemed.

So to then find out yesterday that Hargreaves was intending to sign for City, a club looking for a player to cover Yaya Toure’s absence in January, is hard to understand.

Whilst I understand he’s free to join whichever club he likes after United made the decision to let him go, I don’t think our fans would be out of order to expect him not to join our hated rivals after our club has spent three years paying his way. Throughout this time, we’ve been urging him back, getting ridiculously hopeful every time he claimed he was ready, only to have another set back. It’s not about loyalty in the sense that we expect him to be some dyed in the wool United fan, but about having a bit of common decency and respect. United losing patience with him after three years doesn’t warrant him throwing the money, care and good will back in our faces.

The second issue is the fact that if he cares so little for money, as he claimed in his interview, even being willing to play for United for free, why is he signing for The Richest Club In The World (TM) where he won’t get a game? Like most United fans, I’ve felt really sorry for him these past few years, as he’s missed the peak of his career out injured. I felt even worse for him when he released by the club. But what a waste of emotions. You would think any professional footballer would be desperate to get on the football pitch after three years out. If Hargreaves is going to manage be fit, how many games can he realistically get at City?  He turns 31 this season, so even if he does manage to beat the injury, he’s never going to be as good as he was.

Of course, City have Champions League football and that should be a pull to players like Aguero, Clichy and Nasri, who can realistically expect to be in the starting XI or there abouts. But why would playing in Europe make a difference to Hargreaves? City are going to drop Nigel De Jong or Yaya Toure for Hargo are they?

If Hargreaves does have 40 games in him this season, like he claims, why choose to join a club where he would be lucky to play in half that many? You would think he would be desperate to make up for lost time, when in reality, it turns out he’s just like all those other mercenaries, happy to warm a bench. He is their new Patrick Vieira, who started just four league games last season.

“SHOCK! HORROR! Footballer in new mercenary scandal!” I know it isn’t a big deal to find out that a player is money hungry and sadly, yet again, I’ve been naive. I just had an idea of what Hargreaves was like as a player and wasted sympathy on him for his time out. But if he really cared about playing regular football after so long out, he’d have given Spurs (5th last season), Villa (9th) or West Brom (11th) a go. All clubs would have offered him a pay per play deal. You would be right to assume City will pay him more per play than any club interested.

I wished him well when I talked about his most recent interview. It goes without saying I now totally revoke that. I’m not outraged, I’m not devastated, but I am disappointed. I thought better of him, both in terms of his dedication towards the game and just being a man of common decency and respect, so it is disappointing to learn I had him wrong. He wasn’t a club legend and he’s tarnished how he will be remembered, but essentially, he was desperate to stay at United and we turned him down. But I won’t shed a tear if Vida snaps him on derby day.

About Scott

Scott is the editor of Red Matters - 50 Years of Supporting Manchester United and an author of Play Like Fergie's Boys and Not Nineteen Forever. He writes for ESPN, The Metro and Bleacher Report. Follow @R_o_M on Twitter.

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  1. averio68 says:

    “No” was the answer from United so what choice did he have. Good Luck Owen but shity is going no where

  2. MyCowIsTheBest says:

    As much as he he has all the right in the world to play for any club, i also have all the rights in the world to call him TRAITOR

  3. StatesideAussie says:

    Cheers, Giles. It’s a pleasure to have been able to discuss an issue — especially one that touches such raw nerves — in such a reasonable and articulate manner. As for the issue itself, I don’t have anything significant to add, so I’ll leave it there!

  4. You Gotta love this team says:

    I think that in their sick perverted way the brass at ‘City’ think they are getting one over on United by signing OH. He wont play much if at all. Its sad he’s let himself be used like this. Should have gone somewhere he could play, regain fitness and reputation and then join whoever he wanted to. City’s obsession has become very weird…what next? Offering United fans money to change allegiance or maybe free petrol…sheesh!!!

  5. Zibbie says:

    Would a mercenary offer to play for free for Manchester United? We’ve got our very own mercenary in Wayne Rooney.

    Bite me, he is worth every penny and more. THE FUCKING GLAZERS LOW BALLED HIM!!!!!!!!!

  6. YorYor says:

    Funny how you quickly assume that Hargreaves offering to play for free is a falsity, while going to assume Spurs/Villa/WBA all offered contracts to him but he only chose City.
    If one of the other managers came forth and said “yeah we offered but the terms were not to his liking” then perhaps. But what if it was a deal that said “pay per play, no basic, no guarantee in number of games”? What if City’s said “pay per play, some basic, guarantee X games in all competitions as long as fitness allows?”

    We’re not privy to all that info, so let’s not all jump to conclusions.
    The club didn’t want him, and that for me is enough. As long as he doesn’t sing their blue tune and slag us off. Some have forgiven Heinze, but he is a truly top class twat who is probably the only one in history who took the club to court. Sorry, how is that forgivable? I’ll never.

  7. Tom Ace says:

    This article is pathetic. It sounds like a toddler throwing his toys out of the pram. He offered to play for free and United said no. He’s free to join whichever club he feels is right for him, and with the amount of games that City will get this year, it will enable him to work his way back to fitness and contribute. Just because he was injured he should be hated by the fans? City were willing to take a chance on the lad and he feels it’s the best option for his career. Unbelievable sour grapes.

  8. King Eric says:

    Tom Ace – Its got fuck all do to with him being injured that the fans dislike him. He is joining our fucking biggest rivals , well arguably biggest. How that doesn’t bother some reds is really beyond me. How you would all feel if he did infact score a winner against us at the business end of the season and celebrated like you would expect him to? Bet those people so forgiving would think differently then. Its just fucking wrong, it really is.

  9. YorYor says:

    King Eric
    I don’t think it doesn’t bother anyone, but it’s not causing a kneejerk reaction from some of us. Kinda like how Michael Owen joined us despite him virtually pleading with Liverpool to sign him, which of course the FSW declined. And then went to Newcastle, and after they fell into the Championship, declined their offer and sent out that great sales booklet. We were the only ones who offer him a contract, were we not? This I’m not sure, but to him, it was the best possible move he could ask for.

    To be perfectly honest, no joke, if the scenario you suggested does happen *touch wood*, no United fan would be laughing about it that’s for sure. But it’d be a “we asked for it” kinda thing since we chose not to offer him a contract of any sort isn’t it? I would like to think that if the club deemed that he would somehow be fit enough to contribute, they may have given him a 10K per week basic + heavy performance bonuses, and he’d take it up without a single word of complaint.
    I believe a player cannot possibly lie about such a thing as offering to play for free. A refute from anyone at the club would sully his own name. He was desperate for a chance. But SAF was the one who told him that he wouldn’t want that because he will go on to resent it, and also because it would look like Utd’s taking advantage of him, which SAF doesn’t want to. SAF has said that it was in his best interests to look for football elsewhere, so perhaps it’d be good to just hope that he won’t be fit to play against us at least. Anyway, I have doubts he’d be even capable of lasting 45 mins, even at the end of the season assuming he remains injury free and gets proper conditioning for a whole 8 months.

    I just hope nobody goes to the extent of boo’ing him if he turns up at OT in that stinking blue top. Bound to happen though.

  10. Zibbie says:

    It was a pleasure to read Giles and Stateside.

  11. KingOfStretfordEnd says:

    We did wish him the best before all this came about. But the very fact that he signed for city inevitably makes me retract all those well wishes. I don’t wish for bad things to happen to him, just simply indifferent. I won’t have the fondness that i have when i watch O’Shea and Brown play for Sunderland. It’s the very fact that he signed for city that makes many United fans here turn the tables a 360, so i don’t think you can fault that. You can’t call that hypocritical or bitter. If you’re gonna be rational all the time, then you’re not Manchester United Fan, you’d just be fan of the game.

    Previously posted that we had too little memories of Hargreaves. I’m glad its that way now.

  12. KingOfStretfordEnd says:

    Just to add on, I’m totally with king Eric on this one. he’s sign for SHITTY and some of you guys are trying to be politically correct.

  13. Kurt says:

    Right then where to start. Hargreaves was loved by all united fans and the difference between Owen Awesome Peter and Best is we stuck by Hargreaves when if was injured we said his wages and covered it medical bill. Owen was out of contract and it was not about money or proving him self he wanted to play his carer out at a huge club who if had respect for and we respect that. I will miss Hargreaves but I am really peed off. Now he will be remembered as when we bought him the invisible man.

  14. smartalex says:

    ‘The ex-United man is believed to have signed a deal worth around £20,000 a week, with bonus payments for every game played.’


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