Owen scores winner on Man United debut in Malaysia

Michael Owen made an immediate impact on his Manchester United debut, coming off the bench to score the winning goal in a 3-2 victory over a Malaysian XI.

updated: July 18, 2009 14:16 IST
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Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia:

Michael Owen made an immediate impact on his Manchester United debut on Saturday, coming off the bench to score the winning goal in a 3-2 victory over a Malaysian XI in the first game of the team's Asian tour.

The 29-year-old striker, who surprisingly joined Man United on a free transfer from Newcastle, struck with five minutes to go after the Premier League champions had surrendered a two-goal lead in front of 85,000 spectators in Kuala Lumpur.

Just when United looked like being held to a draw, Owen pounced on a loose ball after Darron Gibson's pass to Ryan Giggs was blocked by goalkeeper Mohamad Farizal Marlias.

"Michael is different to the other strikers we have here," manager Alex Ferguson said. "He's always searching for that space in and around the box, and he reacted really well to take his goal.

"The goalkeeper blocked the ball as Ryan ran through, but you knew Michael would be the first man to get on to it."

Owen replaced England striker Wayne Rooney in the 61st minute, first partnering Dimitar Berbatov in attack and then 17-year-old Federico Macheda from the 76th.

"It's a nice feeling and it's nice to play a game in the red shirt," Owen said. "Just to get off the mark for the season is nice, and it's probably doubly good for me as it's my first game as well.

"It's just nice to play with players who are on your wavelength, spotting your runs and who are just class players."

Rooney had put United ahead in the eighth minute at Bukit Jalil National Stadium, latching on to a rebound from Berbatov to put the ball beyond the reach of Farizal.

Rooney turned provider in the 27th with a cross that Nani slotted into the net, with United appearing to cruise to a comfortable win.

But on the stroke of halftime, Mohamad Amri Yahyah chipped United goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar from about 25 meters (yards) to make it 2-1.

Malaysia started the second half strongly and the equalizer came in the 52nd, with Amri this time exposing Van der Sar's replacement.

Amri took advantage of a bad pass from John O'Shea to go around substitute 'keeper Ben Foster, who is hoping to dislodge Van der Sar from the first team and earn a spot in the England squad for the 2010 World Cup.

"Obviously, the second goal came about after a mistake by Ben," Ferguson said. "He just took his eye of the ball and it bobbled up a little bit.

"It's unfortunate because he's only just come back from injury and he'll want to get that out of his mind as soon as possible."

It took the arrival of Owen, whose quality has been questioned after a succession of injuries, to ensure Foster wouldn't pay for his mistake.

The Red Devils will play the Malaysian XI again on Monday in Kuala Lumpur after their trip to Indonesia was canceled in the wake of Friday's bomb attack on the Jakarta hotel where they was due to stay. They will depart Wednesday for the next leg of their Asia tour in Seoul and then on to China.