Owen Hargreaves has given a frank interview today in The Daily Mail where he discusses his injury hell as well as his hopes for the future. He doesn’t have an agent and offered to play for United for free this season, showing the measure of the man, and sadly, making his story all the more heart breaking.
The injury started when he was with Bayern Munich and broke his leg. Hargreaves claims that the recovery from that injury was the start of his problems.
“When you suffer an injury like that you go into plaster and you lose a lot of muscle,” he said. “And even when I was finally ready to come back, I probably didn’t have the same bulk. That was probably when I started to damage the patella tendon on the outside of my knee joint. I played 10 straight games for Munich and then one day we did some sprint training and it went pop. It was probably a month before the end of the season. It settled down and I got through the medical at United but now I realise the problem was probably developing quite rapidly. The quadriceps is the shock absorber for the tendon and when the tendon starts to break down it doesn’t have the ability to heal itself. When I joined United I told myself I’m not going to let it bother me. I’m the new guy, there are high expectations, I want to play. The niggle is there so I sit out an England game. We started doing double sessions and my knee flared up. So I dropped out of a few sessions; did a bit of maintenance. But I just lived with the discomfort.”
We’ve seen Ole Gunnar Solksjaer come back from an injury when nobody seemed to believe he could do it, meaning United fans were maybe more patient than most when Hargreaves was attempting to make his return.
Last season, he started against Wolves, much to our surprise, but only lasted five minutes before doing his hamstring when crossing the ball.
“When I walked off the pitch after five minutes in that game against Wolves last season, people must have thought, ‘What is it with this guy? Is he made of fucking glass? Is he kidding?'” he said. “It was my first game in two years. I lasted five minutes before I tore my fucking hamstring. And when I had the scan afterwards there were two tears in my calf, too. Walking off the pitch that day was the longest walk of my life. It took all my energy just to make it back to the dressing-room. It’s my first game in two years, I’ve had a standing ovation and I’ve now got 70,000 people looking at me – millions more on TV – and all I can think is, ‘Try not to limp’. I look like a joker. I wanted to try to keep playing. I think it shows how desperate I was, trying to battle on with two muscle injuries. I wanted to at least get to half-time. But I last five minutes! I’m not an emotional guy but when I finally made it into the dressing-room, I just cried. I was sitting there with one of the physios and I was so overwhelmed. I had put so much into it. For two years I had been visualising the moment in my mind.”
It wasn’t just Hargreaves who was devastated, but his team mates too, with Edwin Van der Sar taking it upon himself to look after our broken midfielder. He went round to his house that evening just to sit and talk with him.
After recovering from that injury, Hargreaves played in a Reserves game and ended up dislocating his shoulder, and that was his season over. His contract expired in the summer.
“I said my goodbyes to the boys before the Champions League final. That was it. I was gone,” he said. “I don’t blame them for letting me go. I can understand it. There comes a point when you have to say this hasn’t worked out. The game has moved on. See you later, all the best. I told the boss I will play 40 games this season. He said he could see me playing again, but he wanted to start bringing the younger players through. When I played for him he was fantastic. He’s a great manager. He knows the players who can win a game for him. He’s the best at that. The guys were great, too. It’s a wonderful club.”
Best of luck, Owen.
The RoM Manchester United 2022-23 season preview is now available for just £6. It includes exclusive interviews with Patrice Evra and Kleberson, articles from the country's best football writers about our expectations for the season ahead and our brightest talents, as well as proposed transfer business and which youth players to keep an eye out for. All profit goes to Trafford Macmillan so please support this fantastic cause.